First published in 1999, this is the first scholarly study of the Socialist Medical Association (SMA), an organisation of left-wing medical practitioners founded in 1930 and affiliated to the Labour Party in the following year. The SMA’s aim was a free, comprehensive, and universal state medical service, democratically controlled and with all personnel, including doctors, working as salaried employees. In the 1930s and early 1940s the organisation gained increasing influence over Labour Party health policy, and consequently saw its activities as central to the creation of the National Health Service (NHS). However, once Labour was actually in power, the SMA became more and more marginalised, in part because of its difficult relationship with the Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan. Bevan, while inaugurating a service which had many features desired by the Association, none the less also felt obliged to make compromises with the medical profession. The SMA’s activities are therefore of historical interest in providing a further view of the creation of the NHS, while its ideas and proposals continue to raise serious questions about issues such as the nature and control of social welfare and the possibility of achieving a truly socialised health service.

1. Introduction. 2. The Genesis of the SMA, 1900-1930. 3. ‘The People’s Health’. 4. The SMA, the Labour Party, and Medical Politics in the 1930s. 5. The SMA and the London County Council. 6. Fascism, Medicine, and War. 7. ‘Health of the Future’. 8. ‘The Battle for Health’. 9. ‘We Thought of It First’: The SMA and the National Health Service. 10. ‘Pure but Impotent’?