The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded healthcare system in England responsible for providing the majority of healthcare in the country. The NHS began on 5 July 1948, putting into effect the provisions of the National Health Service Act 1946. It was based on the findings of the Beveridge Report, prepared by economist and social reformer William Beveridge. The NHS is largely funded from general taxation including National Insurance payments, and it provides most of its services free at the point of use, although there are charges for some people for eye tests, dental care, prescriptions and aspects of personal care.
The government department responsible for the NHS is the Department of Health, headed by the Secretary of State for Health, who sits in the British Cabinet. Most of the expenditure of the Department of Health is spent on the NHS—£98.6 billion was spent in 2008–2009. In recent years the private sector has been increasingly used to provide more NHS services despite opposition by doctors and trade unions.
Map of districts in England and Wales shaded by life expectancy.
Life expectancy at birth in England and Wales 2012 to 2014. Lighter colours indicate longer life expectancy.
The average life expectancy of people in England is 77.5 years for males and 81.7 years for females, the highest of the four countries of the United Kingdom. The South of England has a higher life expectancy than the North, however, regional differences do seem to be slowly narrowing: between 1991–1993 and 2012–2014, life expectancy in the North East increased by 6.0 years and in the North West by 5.8 years, the fastest increase in any region outside London, and the gap between life expectancy in the North East and South East is now 2.5 years, down from 2.9 in 1993.