The introduction of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service in 1948 is generally accepted to be the most enduring legacy of the Labour government elected at the end of the Second World War. 1 The fiftieth anniversary of the NHS in 1998 stimulated much commentary on the successes and limitations of this major social experiment. 2 The NHS was established in an attempt to address long-recognized inequalities in access to health care. It brought together previously poorly coordinated voluntary and local authority hospital services, local authority community health services and private general practitioners, in a tax-financed but cash-limited system promising universal access to health care largely free at the point of service. However, one aspect of the introduction of the NHS has received little attention: the incorporation of sexually transmitted disease (called venereal disease until the 1970s) services into the NHS. Previous research has not explored in detail the relationship between wider health policy (in particular, the introduction and development of the NHS), social change and STD policy between 1948 and 2000. 3 There is, for example, no mention of the incorporation of STD services into the NHS in Webster’s otherwise definitive two-volume history of the NHS. 4