Socialist Health Association

The Socialist Medical Association (SMA) was founded in late 1930 on the initiative of Dr Charles Brook. Brook was appointed Secretary and Dr Somerville Hastings, Labour MP for Reading, the first President of the Association.

Its basic aims were to work towards a socialised medical service, free and open to all, and to promote a high standard of health for the people of Britain. These were to be achieved through the dissemination of socialism within the medical profession and the support of 'medical Members of Parliament'. Affiliated to the Labour Party from 1931 onwards, the SMA exerted an important influence on Labour health policy, particularly following the publication of its programme, A socialised medical service, in 1933.

The Association lobbied for a national health service throughout the 1930s and 1940s, producing statements of policy, launching an official journal, Medicine Today and Tomorrow, and publishing reports, one of which, Whither medicine? (1939), came to encapsulate the basic principles of the National Health Service. Following the Beveridge Report in 1942, the association was involved in discussions with the Minister of Health and, through its sponsorship of twelve Labour MPs, influenced the progress of the National Health Service Bill through Parliament in 1946. At its height in 1943 membership of the SMA was 1800. However following the establishment of the NHS in July 1948, the influence of the organisation waned and its role gradually changed. The SMA re-named itself as the Socialist Health Association (SHA) in May 1981 to reflect a shift in emphasis to the prevention of illness through the promotion of good health. The SHA now engages primarily in public education and lobbying on health issues.

The records of the SMA at national level comprise: minutes of the Executive Committee, Council and Annual General Meetings from the SMA's foundation to the 1990s; minutes of various committees and sub-committees, most importantly the Policy (National Health Service) Committee (1946-1947), and the Mental Health Sub-Committee (1950-1954); circulars, 1930-1960; and subject files and reports on such topics as the Voluntary Hospitals Commission 1936, the National Health Service Act 1948, the Royal Commission on the National Health Service 1976/7, tuberculosis and clean air in the 1950s. Some branch records are available for Leeds and London for the 1930s to the 1970s, and miscellaneous items include a photograph album compiled after an SMA delegation to the Soviet Union in spring 1958, notes on the history of the SMA and successive versions of the constitution. A number of Labour Party publications, most importantly the pamphlet For a healthy London, and a draft of the Party's policy on Health and the nation (1931), are also available. Additional archives are received on a regular basis. [U DSM, U DSM(2) & U DSM(3)]