FORGET Magna Carta. Though its habeas corpus provision – a safeguard against imprisonment without an openly stated reason – has proved of community value down the centuries, the famous charter chiefly benefited the barons who drew it up.

Forget the battles of Agincourt, Trafalgar and Waterloo. Forget even our proclaimed “finest hour”, the Battle of Britain.

Vital victories all, with sacrifices never to be forgotten. But if we have to look to war for the best that we can do, well, you must admit that’s a bit negative.

No, this country’s finest achievement of all time, pinpointed as such more than once in this column, is the National Health Service.

The British people were spot on in 1945 when, within weeks of cheering Winston Churchill for his inspired war leadership, they rejected him in favour of the uncharismatic Clement Attlee, heading a Labour government committed to social change.

The people were determined there should be no return to the severe poverty and sharp social divisions of the decades between the world wars. And Attlee delivered the goods, none better than the NHS, promoted with passion and vigour by Aneurin Bevan.

Instantly, through national insurance, the best medical care became available to all. The structure was simple. The family doctor was the first point of call. If necessary the patient would be referred to a hospital specialist, who would decide what should be done.

More recently, most of us were, I suspect, puzzled when it was announced that GPs were to be given charge of virtually the whole caboodle. They would be the key figures in so-called Clinical Commissioning Groups.

What needed “commissioning,” a term unknown in the NHS’s first half century? Well, overshadowed by Baroness Thatcher’s death, the new arrangement got under way earlier this month – and it’s not good news.

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme a GP from Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, bluntly described it as “the destruction of the NHS”. Max Pemberton, a regular writer on health in The Daily Telegraph – the Tory Telegraph mark you – concurred: “This is way the NHS ends: not with a bang but a whimper.”

Pemberton – the pen-name of an NHS mental health specialist – believes nearly everything in the NHS is now up for grabs – officially “commissioning”.

“The majority of treatments will be put out to tender,” he forecasts. His experience of the limited tendering previously allowed has shown that “services are invariably awarded to the lowest bidder” and winning organisations maximise profits “by employing under-trained, cheaper staff and replacing doctors with nurses and nurses with auxiliaries”.

While Pemberton anticipates the NHS’s prime concern will shift from “what is best for the patient” to “the cost of the encounter”, Sir Bruce Keogh, the Government’s medical director, admits there is already evidence of GPs pushing work towards private providers with whom they have a financial interest. And Prof Malcolm Grant, chairman of NHS England, the new group directing day-to-day running of the NHS, warns that unless the economy recovers strongly, the NHS will have to raise charges to patients.

So there you have it from the horse’s mouth – the end of the NHS.

Our nation’s greatest achievement turned into its greatest shame.