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About the NHS System

The NHS was formed in 1948 and has changed a lot since then.  Healthcare under the NHS is free at the point of care, although there are some costs such as prescriptions, eye care and dental care.

The NHS system is very complicated and starts right at the top with the Secretary of State for Health who has overall responsibility for the work of the Department of Health.

Watch a video introduction to the NHS [6m 30s]

The Department of Health strategically leads public health, the NHS and social care in England. It is also responsible for funding.  It is a ministerial department supported by many agencies and public bodies, which is why it is such a complex system.

NHS England

NHS England is an independent body, its main role being to set the priorities and direction of the NHS in England and to improve health and care outcomes for people in England. Read more about NHS England.

Public Health England

Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and to reduce inequalities. It provides national leadership and expert services to support public health and works with local government and the NHS to respond to emergencies. Read more about Public Health England

Health Education England

Health Education England ensures that the healthcare workforce has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours to improve the care patients receive. Read More about Health Education England

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides national guidance to healthcare professionals and others to make sure that the care they provide is of the best possible quality and offers the best value for money. Read more about NICE

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The Health Research Authority (HRA) protects and promotes the interests of patients and the public in health and social care research. Read more about NIHR

The Care Quality Commission (CQC)

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England. Read more about the CQC

NHS Improvement

NHS Improvement is responsible for overseeing foundation trusts and NHS trusts, as well as independent providers that provide NHS-funded care. Read more about NHS Improvement.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the government agency which is responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work, and are acceptably safe. Read more about the MHRA.

NHS Digital

NHS Digital is the national provider of information, data and IT systems for commissioners, analysts and clinicians in health and social care. Read more about NHS Digital.

Date updated: 20.04.21 (V1.3)
Review date: 12.05.21

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