What we do > Professor Harry Keen

Our founder: Professor Harry Keen



The NHS was conceived in 1948 to replace a patchwork of charity, private and municipal hospitals that left many people without care because they could not afford the fees for treatment or medicines. The decision to provide care free at the point of use and to share the cost fairly through taxation was ahead of its time.

Professor Harry Keen, founder of the NHS Support Federation, was in the early days of his career as a GP in 1948 (pictured, right) and could recall the immediate impact of the NHS.

"A few days before the Appointed Day (5 July 1948), I had visited a home on a large, new estate where little Billy had come out in a measles rash and started to cough with the bronchitis that often accompanied it. I examined him, wrote a prescription for some medicine, received my two shillings fee and said I'd call back in a couple of days.

When I returned, the mother informed me that Billy was a lot better. But as we spoke, a loud hacking cough came from upstairs, and I commented that he didn't sound better. 'Oh no,' said the mother, 'that's not Billy, it's Johnny, his brother.' When I offered to take a look at him, she said, 'I'd rather you didn't - we really can't afford it. He's just the same as Billy, so I've given him some of Billy's leftover medicine.' It was 5 July. I told her that from that day it wouldn't cost her anything and eventually walked away feeling much lighter in my heart.

The transformation that the NHS brought about in British medicine can only be imagined now. The relief from the burden of financial anxiety was palpable."