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The NHS Explained: How the Health System in England Really Works

King's Fund via FutureLearn


Explore the past, present, and future of the NHS in England

The National Health Service (NHS) is a source of British national pride placed above the BBC, the British Olympic team, and the Royal Family. It affects the lives of millions of people.

But have you ever wondered how many people it takes to keep a nation healthy? Or how much money it costs to run the NHS? Or why hospital waiting times are always in the headlines?

This course will help you understand what keeps the fifth largest employer in the world running. You’ll explore the challenges facing the system, and how to ensure the NHS is fit for the future.

Learn about the history of the NHS and how it functions today

You’ll start the course by delving into the origin story of the national health service. You’ll investigate the health system in England pre-NHS, and see how the service has evolved and developed since then.

You’ll also examine the NHS’s structure, funding, and workforce, to get a fuller picture of how the system functions today.

Investigate current and future challenges facing the NHS

Once you’ve understood how the NHS delivers its services, you’ll dig deeper into the many challenges the system faces. You’ll discuss ways of measuring NHS performance, and what resources are needed to keep the nation healthy.

By the end of the four weeks, you’ll have a deep understanding of the workings of the NHS in England, and a sense of how the system could evolve in the coming years.

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in the NHS in England and how it works. This includes NHS and social care staff in England and beyond (working in both clinical and non-clinical roles), students considering a career in the NHS, patients, and the public.


  • What is the NHS about?
    • What do you know about the NHS?
    • How has the NHS developed over time?
    • The building blocks of the NHS: how is the system structured?
  • How does the NHS work?
    • How does funding flow through the NHS?
    • How are decisions made in the NHS?
    • Who works in the NHS?
    • How do we make sure that the NHS is performing well?
  • How is the NHS doing?
    • Measuring how the NHS is performing
    • Measuring the quality of care
    • Measuring what patients think
  • The future of the NHS
    • The next ten years
    • Integration and collaboration
    • Technology and data
    • The public and the NHS
    • Finishing up

Taught by

Hong-Anh Nguyen


4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 261 ratings

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