Behind the badge: the story of the NHS, its foundation and its logo

Behind the badge: the story of the NHS, its foundation and its logo

Behind The Badge is a series by COPA90 exploring football’s unique crests. These Football Times teamed up with their COPA Collective partners to tell the story behind each one.


On 26 March at 8pm, millions of people across the UK, including many footballers, went outside their houses to ‘Clap for Carers’ in appreciation of the National Health Service and care workers coping with the coronavirus pandemic. In these unprecedented times, the hard work of such employees cannot be overstated.

As recognisable as the sterling contribution these workers make to British society is the logo of the NHS. It is important to note that under devolution the NHS in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have differing logos, however the universally adopted one is the current English incarnation.

Known as the lozenge, this has been in use since the start of the 1990s, becoming the sole official logo in 1999. As per their website, it serves to stand “as a mark of quality that patients and the public look for when accessing healthcare”.

The website goes on to outline the various legislation surrounding the logo. It should not be cluttered by other text or appear too close to other images or the edge of surfaces. An exclusion zone – the full height of the logo – is necessary when the logo is used in either print or on signs to ensure it is always clear and visible.

This exclusion zone is relaxed for digital pages, owing to sizing restrictions often enforced by the internet. Nevertheless, it is prohibited to place the logo on a bright colour, such as red, green or orange. Featuring multiple NHS logos on the same page is also forbidden. Whilst such strict usage may appear trivial, it is important to consider the struggle it took to get to this stage.

This began in the late 19th century, with some socialists calling for the unprecedented introduction of a free healthcare system within Britain to mirror the 1884 health insurance policy of Germany’s Otto von Bismarck. In 1909, Beatrice Webb headed the Minority Report on the Poor Law, arguing a new system was required to replace Victorian conditions, however these suggestions were largely dismissed by the Liberal government.

A year later, a physician from Liverpool called Dr Benjamin Moore published The Dawn of the Health Age, which is widely considered to be the first book to use the words ‘National Health Service’. Moore established the State Medical Service Association, which held its first meeting in 1912. This came off the back of the introduction of the National Insurance Act a year before. Part one of this act concerned health, mirroring Germany to provide a National Insurance scheme with the provision of medical benefits in exchange for a small weekly payment.

In 1937, Dr A.J. Cronin published his novel The Citadel, which heavily criticised shortcomings of the British healthcare system. This book has been credited as playing a significant role in paving the way for the NHS. Two years later, the UK became involved in World War Two, which temporarily halted domestic welfare reforms, however by 1941, the Ministry of Health began to work on the post-war health policy.

Liberal economist William Beveridge outlined how this strategy might look in his November 1942 Beveridge Report, which proposed a series of far-reaching reforms to the social welfare system. Beveridge based his report around what he called ‘the five giants of reconstruction’: want, disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness. The idea was to create a Welfare State for post-war Britain that would provide for all in reward for the nationwide struggle in the conflict.

Towards the end of the war, in 1944, the British government endorsed a white paper proposed by Minister of Health Henry Willink. In this, the first guidelines for the free health service were outlined, with the programme accelerating with the election of Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee in early July 1945. Just over a year later, on 6 Novemeber 1946, the National Health Service Act received Royal assent from King George VI.

The NHS came into being on 5 July 1948, being launched some five miles west of Old Trafford at Park Hospital in Manchester by new health minister Nye Bevan. This established the world’s first free healthcare system to be provided on the basis of citizenship rather than, as before, on insurance payments. Using various logos across the decades, fast-forward to the present day and the NHS has now been operational for almost 72 years.

It provides jobs to some 1.7 million people, however in these troubling times, this is not enough. GoodSAM, an app designed to alert those with medical training to nearby emergencies, has teamed up with the NHS to create the NHS Volunteer Responders. An ‘army’ of volunteers to support the roughly 1.5 million people most at risk from coronavirus, they aim to deliver medicines from pharmacies, drive patients to appointments, and make regular calls to check up on those self-isolating. Anyone interested can sign-up at www.goodssamapp.org/nhs if appreciative clapping isn’t where you want to stop.

Partaking in this activity were the likes of Aaron Ramsey, David Beckham and Jamie Vardy. Millions of Britons are used to them bringing joy on the football pitch, however the other night they stood in a metaphorical, socially-distanced sense, side-by-side to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of the NHS.

By James Kelly @jkell403
Art by Tom Griffiths @ARTomGriffiths

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