ABSTRACT

It may well be that after Bevan and Moran had reached agreement on consultant staffing of nationalized hospitals, Bevan’s ensuing ‘long drawn-out tussle’ with the British Medical Association over the status of general practitioners was ‘an unseemly irrelevance’.1 At the time, however, this hardly seemed to be the case. For two years many medical critics, particularly general practitioners in the BMA, campaigned vigorously against scheduled implementation in mid-1948 of the NHS. The tone of this public campaign was far from restrained, even in its beginnings. When the minister of health announced, in March 1946, his decision to nationalize all, including voluntary private, hospitals, Sir Bernard Docker, president of the British Hospital Association (BHA), charged him with mass murder.2 Whether Docker was charging Bevan with causing the deaths of medical institutions or of their patients remained unclear, as may have been intended. Shortly thereafter a BHA resolution attacking Bevan’s decision to ‘extinguish the voluntary hospitals’ was read verbatim in a House of Lords debate.3 This resolution was probably no surprise to anyone in either medicine or politics. The identity of its reader may have been a surprise to many. Denied membership by Moran in the doctors’ Negotiating Committee as a representative of his own Royal College of Physicians, Thomas Lord Horder had finally joined the public debate on Bevan’s decisions, as a representative of the British Hospital Association. This was an unexpected institutional affiliation. Horder had never been known as an enthusiast for hospital administrators. As Moran acidly noted at a meeting of RCP fellows, with Horder present, the BHA was largely composed, not of doctors, but of hospital administrators who viewed unpaid consulting physicians as hospital employees. Later Moran used the same setting to point out that the treasurer of Horder’s own St Bartholomew’s Hospital was supporting Bevan.4 Such needling was intended to, and did, draw Horder’s blood.