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The history of the NHS in England

The NHS in the 1990s

NHS organ donor card

The NHS Organ Donor Register is launched in October 1994. Find out more below.

1990 – NHS Community Care Act

Now health authorities will manage their own budgets and buy health care from hospitals and other health organisations. In order to be deemed a 'provider' of such health care, organisations will become NHS trusts – independent organisations with their own managements.

1991 – first 57 NHS trusts established

New NHS trusts will aim to encourage creativity and innovation and challenge the domination of the hospitals within a health service increasingly focused on services in the community. Read about today's NHS authorities and trusts.

1994 – NHS Organ Donor Register is set up

The NHS Organ Donor Register is launched in October 1994, following a five-year campaign by John and Rosemary Cox from the West Midlands. In 1989 their 24-year-old son Peter died of a brain tumour. He had asked for his organs to be used to help others. The Coxes said there should be a register for people who wish to donate their organs.

By 2005 more than 12 million have registered. Organ donation is needed as demand outstrips supply and this register ensures that when a person dies they can be identified as someone who's chosen to donate their organs. Find out more about blood and organ donation

1998 – NHS Direct launched

This service will go on to become one of the largest single e-health services in the world, handling more than half a million calls each month. It is the start of a growing range of convenient alternatives to traditional GP services – including the launch of NHS walk-in centres, which offer patients treatment and advice for a range of injuries and illnesses without the need to make an appointment.

The NHS Direct service closed in 2014. Instead, you can call NHS 111, a new non-emergency number that was introduced to make it easier for people to access local NHS healthcare services in England. You should call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency. Find out more about the NHS 111 service.

1999 - National Service Framework for Mental Health

The National Service Framework for Mental Health aims to ensure higher levels of competence and good practice among professionals by:

  • combating discrimination against individuals and groups with mental health problems
  • making it easier for anyone who may have a mental health problem to access services
  • creating a range of mental health services to prevent or anticipate crises where possible



Page last reviewed: 06/07/2015

Next review due: 06/07/2018

NHS 111

111 is the NHS non-emergency number. It’s fast, easy and free. Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency

Watchdog: HTA

The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) is an independent watchdog that makes sure human tissue is used safely and ethically