Review of medical services in Great Britain (1962)

The Review of medical services in Great Britain (the ‘Porritt review’) was published on 3 November 1962. The Medical Services Review Committee, led by Sir Arthur Porritt, decided to review the NHS’s first 10 years and make recommendations. It was not government-inspired. Porritt was president of the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Medical Association. A surgeon of the old school, he began as a sceptic but came out convinced that the NHS had to continue and be improved. The committee was supported by all the major medical bodies of the time, including the British Medical Association (BMA).

The Porritt Committee agreed that the concept of a comprehensive national health service was sound, but suggested that the tripartite system comprising hospital services, general practitioners and community health services was too sharply divided. This division of services had made the integration of services difficult and had resulted in the isolation of doctors. The committee suggested that the separate allocation of funding from central and local government had contributed to fragmented policies that had compromised efficiency and contributed to a ‘loss of economy’.

Recommendations made by the committee generally emphasised the need for general medical practitioners to have a greater role in planning of local services.

The committee recommended that area health boards (AHBs) should be established based on general hospital areas and that the AHBs should bring together all aspects of the tripartite NHS system. During a House of Lords debate on 7 March 1963, Lord Amrulee criticised the recommendation as being impractical to implement as it would lead to a reconfiguration of the local government system and might overemphasise the relative importance of hospital services as opposed to preventative services. 

The report also noted a change in the role of the state in health services: ‘Medicine is no longer solely a partnership between doctor and patient. Three parties are now concerned – patient, doctor, and the state.’