Title from Socialist Medical Association pamphlet

Socialist Health Association

Background to the Collection

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.

What is in the collection?

Material in this collection (ref U DSM) covers the period 1912-2003. Records include minutes, circulars, subject files and reports, photographs and publications.

Subjects covered include 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. 

What areas of research would the collection support?

This collection could be used to investigate the history of the NHS in the UK, as well as to support studies of those individuals involved with the association. It would also support more general studies of the history of medical provision in the UK, 20th century socialism, Labour Party associations in the 20th century, and 20th century campaigning.

Are there any access issues?

Some files within this collection are closed to protect the sensitive data of persons mentioned within the records. Please see individual catalogue descriptions for further details.

Is there any related material?

Related material can be found in the following collections:

  • Papers of Dr Charles W Brook [U DX78]

  • Papers of Dr Somerville Hastings [U DSH and microfilm M/I 1188]

Please also see our Politics and Campaigning page for further guidance on our political collections.

See the online catalogue description