Logo of the SHA.
Logo of the SHA.

The Socialist Health Association (SHA, called the Socialist Medical Association before May 1981) is a socialist medical association based in the United Kingdom. It is affiliated to the Labour Party as a socialist society.


The Socialist Medical Association was founded in 1930 to campaign from within the Labour Party for a National Health Service in the United Kingdom and absorbed many of those who had been active in the State Medical Service Association, which collapsed as a result.[1] The inaugural meeting was convened by Charles Wortham Brook, a doctor with links to the Labour Party who was a member of the London County Council (LCC) during the period when the LCC developed its municipal hospitals. Brook was the first Secretary of the Association, remaining in office until 1938.[2]

Many of those involved in the Association volunteered for the Spanish Medical Aid Committee in the Spanish Civil War.[3]

Somerville Hastings was founder President of the Socialist Medical Association (SMA) 1930–1951. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War, followed by work as an aural surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital. He was a Member of the London County Council for fourteen years.[4]

In 1945 there were nine members of the association in the House of Commons. They hoped to influence the plans for the development of the National Health Service (NHS). The Association had held a Health Workers’ Convention at Conway Hall, London in 1943, which was attended by health workers and union representatives.[1] A further event, also at Conway Hall Ethical Society, took place in 1946, delivering 14 lectures and an exhibition as part of a Health Services Week.[1] There were communications with Aneurin Bevan but his relations with the group were not particularly close.[5] The Association was keen to press for doctors to be salaried and work full-time in health centres. They wanted teaching hospitals to be integrated into the regional hospital organisations and criticised the segmentation of the service as a barrier to integrated services.[6] The first anniversary of the NHS was celebrated by the Association with a meeting of 300 attendees at Conway Hall Ethical Society.[1]

The association was active in campaigns against NHS charges, smoking and tuberculosis, and for adequate nutrition, the establishment of health centres and salaried general practitioners.[7] It is associated with the campaigns against health inequality.[8]

It attempted to build an international movement. In October 1962 David Stark Murray went to the University of Chicago to talk to students about the fight for socialized medicine.[9]

It changed its name in May 1981 to the Socialist Health Association to reflect increased interest in public health.[10] It is a socialist society affiliated to the Labour Party.

It was active in the campaign against the Health and Social Care Act 2012.[11]

Alex Scott-Samuel, a public health physician and retired lecturer in public health at the University of Liverpool, was elected Chair in 2017 and held the position until 2020. On behalf of the Association he proposed a resolution at the 2017 Labour Party Conference confirming Labour's opposition to Conservative policies for the NHS in England and calling for the reinstatement of the NHS "as per the NHS Bill (2016-17)". It was carried unanimously.[12] The SHA is currently campaigning against the Health and Social Care bill which it views as a huge threat to socialised healthcare. The current Chair 2021 is Mark Ladbrooke, a former union convenor at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.


Notable members


  1. ^ a b c d "The Socialist Medical Association and the Foundation of the NHS". Socialist Health Association. 6 March 1980. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Dr Charles Wortham Brook CBE 1901-1983". Socialist Health Association. 6 November 1983. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  3. ^ "A pledge to remember Oxford's Spanish Civil War volunteers". Oxford Mail. 14 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Somerville Hastings". Socialist Health Association. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  5. ^ Webster, Charles (1988). The Health Services since the War. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. p. 79. ISBN 0116309423.
  6. ^ Webster, Charles (1988). The Health Services since the War. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. p. 89. ISBN 0116309423.
  7. ^ "Health Centres: the next step". Socialist Medical Association. 1975. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  8. ^ Conway, David (May–June 2009). "Sick times, sick people". Scottish Left Review (52). Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  9. ^ "Can Sanders' civil rights experience at U. of C. translate on campaign trail?". Chicago Tribune. 26 August 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  10. ^ "Spartacus Educational". Spartacus. Archived from the original on 20 March 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  11. ^ "The dangers of marketisation". Health Service Journal. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  12. ^ O'Sullivan, Tony (27 September 2017). "Historic moment as Labour Conference unanimously recommits to restoring an NHS for all". Keep Our NHS Public. London: Keep Our NHS Public. Archived from the original on 17 March 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2020. An excellent motion was passed including a robust call for a defence of the NHS in England now and a move to reinstate it 'as per the NHS Bill (2016-17)'.

Further reading