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Labour attempts to abolish private provision in the NHS

Barbara Castle, as Secretary of State for Health and Social Services, campaigned to abolish pay beds in the NHS, but legislation introduced to this effect was later repealed under Margaret Thatcher.


Labour encourages integration of health and local authorities

A 'joint finance' programme was introduced to incentivise joint working between local authorities and the NHS.

4 April 1979

Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act 1979

The Act received royal assent on 4 April 1979, providing for the establishment of the Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC).

4 May 1979

Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister

Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister, following an election manifesto suggesting the government would simplify and decentralise the health service to cut back bureaucracy.

8 July 1979

Merrison report

The Royal Commission on the National Health Service, chaired by Sir Alec Merrison, aimed to consider the best use and management of the financial and human resources in the NHS.


Encouragement of the privatisation of ancillary services

The government started to encourage the privatisation of ancillary services such as cleaning and laundry by sending a letter to health authorities encouraging them to tender contracts.

8 August 1980

Health Services Act 1980

Legislation provided for structural reorganisation of the NHS, enabling the Secretary of State to establish district health authorities (DHAs).

10 March 1981

Tax breaks for employers offering private insurance benefits

The 1981 budget statement committed to removing tax on medical insurance premiums paid by employers for the benefit of staff earning under £8,500 a year.

1 April 1982

District health authorities (DHAs)

Following the Health Services Act 1980, the NHS (constitution of district health authorities) order created 192 DHAs to replace area health authorities (AHAs).