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National Health Service History

Geoffrey Rivett

home inheritance1948-19571958-19671968-1977 1978-1987  1988-19971998-2007 2008-2017envoishort history London's hospitals

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(from the BMJ May 1950)

Sir Wilson Jameson on reaching the age limit retired this week from the post of Chief Medical Officer to the Ministry of Health. He has held office at the Ministry for ten years, years of unprecedented strain and anxiety. Sir Wilson Jameson had by 1939 already made his name as Dean of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, having been appointed to this post in 1931. It seemed likely to those who knew him and his work that he would remain attached to this institution until retirement. He was asked to become Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health in 1940, and it must have been difficult for him to decide to leave an institution he loved and had served so well. Among the many motives that influenced him a strong sense of duty undoubtedly was one, and a powerful one. Sir Wilson assumed office at a time when many feared that bombing would bring in its train widespread outbreaks of infectious disease, when the hospital services of this country and especially of the big towns were being disrupted and had to be reorganized, when, in fact, central decisions affecting the life and health of the people had to be reached and acted on from week to week. Then after the publication of the Beveridge Report the Ministry had the task of drawing up plans for a national health service. Few men in the medical profession can have been subjected over the past ten years to such a continuous strain, a strain made not less in Sir Wilson's case when by virtue of his position he found the Ministry he served at times very much out of favour with the medical profession. That he has come through the past ten years with his reputation for fair-mindedness and professional loyalty enhanced is a tribute to a great public servant and an eminent doctor. His services to the profession and the public have been recognized by fitting honours and awards. In his retirement from the Ministry of Health the profession will add to these its own good wishes in the work Sir Wilson has agreed to do for the King Edward's Hospital Fund.

Bevan's view

At a private dinner party after the launching of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan paid personal tribute to Wilson Jameson as having made an outstanding contribution to the formation of the NHS.


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