In 1948 the National Health Service was born: the first of its kind, it set out to provide healthcare for all, regardless of background or wealth. Now 66 years on, it treats one million people every 36 hours and is the 5th largest employer in the world, with a workforce of over 1.7 million people.
Despite this, the NHS has come under increasing attack over the past year from hospital closures, funding cuts and instances of poor care being publicised across the mainstream media.
Nevertheless, we at ELL feel that it is a British institution that should be protected. So on Valentine’s Day, here are 10 (actually 11) great reasons to love the NHS.
Ellie Rose: ‘It’s Free.’
Londoner, Ellie Rose, has just moved to New York: ““Wahhhh!” Tears are streaming from my eyes and I’m prodding my husband awake. It’s 6.30am and the pain is happening again. When I got into a doctor’s clinic after the weekend, I theorized that they’d probably need to run some tests, since HOW CAN THEY SEE INSIDE MY PELVIS WITH JUST THEIR EYES. How much does a blood test cost, even? An ultrasound? An MRI? I reflected that I would probably need to sell a kidney to pay for it all. Which would be ironic. I allow myself a couple of miserable sniffs and, since I’m so heavily engaged in feeling sorry for myself, it takes a few moments for the penny to drop that uninsured Americans cannot fly to the UK for free treatment. I do another few sniffs because I’ve realised what a self-pitying brat I am being. Then another few (worthier?) sniffs on behalf of uninsured Americans.” Read more of Ellie’s blog here.
Mathilde Ive: ‘They look after us whoever we are.’
“There is nothing worse than being ill when you are far away from home – and from mummy. In London, one of the most international cities in the world, a lot of foreigners depend on the NHS when illness strikes, as I did last week. Two words: Chicken pox. I think the ten days that followed qualify as one of the top ten worst experiences of my life. And if it hadn’t been for my (now) doctor at the local drop-in medical centre, I think those ten days would have been far worse. She gave me pills to relieve the scratching, and dryly stated: ‘Well, at least now you won’t get them when you decide to get pregnant one day.’ A few words of comfort – a huge difference. I followed last Autumn’s fuelled debate on substantially altering the NHS services available to foreigners for free, and now I must say, thank you NHS. When you are really ill, what you need is help, not paperwork.”
Hollie Thompson, Paramedic: ‘They will come and find you wherever you are.’
“On a typical night shift, our ambulances drive between 60 and 80 miles each around Croydon and other areas of London. My job is a lot more than rescuing drunk people or picking up someone who has had a fall. It is about reassuring worried relatives, answering questions and offering support. And yes, sometimes saving lives! I love that no two days are the same – I never know what is going to happen. I recently delivered a baby on my own after a woman called for help when she was home alone. She was very scared, but I was able to calm her and deliver her a healthy baby safely. The mother even chose her daughter’s middle name to be Hollie! There are difficult times of course, and I will never get used to seeing very sick and dying people, although I can accept that it is a necessary part of my job. I enjoy helping people, and that comes in many forms – from CPR to comforting someone with a cup of tea.”
Sian Tegan: ‘They bring new lives into the world – against all odds.’
“My son Rory was born with Gastroschisis, an abdominal defect where organs protrude through the abdominal wall and develop on the outside of the body during pregnancy, and was whisked away for an emergency operation to have a silo fitted to his abdomen. He was in hospital for a total of 39 days and they were the longest days of my life. It was heartbreaking to not to be able to hold my baby for 5 days until he’d had more surgery. At times I felt there was a lack of progress but soon grew to realise this wasn’t down to the hospital’s care, it was down to my boy not being able to progress as quickly as the doctors hoped. In all, the support was great and as he began to recover. I realised he owed his life to the amazing surgeons and nurses who had made him better. The doctors do great things and are often under scrutiny for not making things happen at the wave of a wand.”
Sam Johnston: ‘They make us smile even when we are frightened.’
”I had collapsed three times playing sport. The doctors couldn’t work out what had caused it in the first two instances. But the third time a doctor decided I had some sort of heart defect, so I was sent to The Heart Hospital in Marylebone, London. I was frightened but the staff at the hospital were incredible. I remember there was an Ashes cricket match going on while I was having one of my tests and the Australian nurse who was doing the procedure printed off the score for me – that small gesture distracted me from the reality of the situation. I was diagnosed with an arrhythmia, prescribed medication and have been able to live a relatively normal life ever since. It’s been six years since my diagnosis now, so I don’t require much attention and affection during my visits – but I see the nervous faces of new undiagnosed patients and their loved ones, and see the care that they are given by the staff and I am reminded of how special that was for my family at a tough time.”
Jane Simpson, GP: ‘They have one of the hardest working teams in Britain.’
“The reason I love the NHS is because they have one of the hardest working teams in Britain. I have been a doctor for seven years, and a qualified GP for two, and during this time, I have experienced a camaraderie that I do not think exists in many other work places. With everyone working so hard, and for so many hours, there is an understanding and flexibility between those in the medical profession. If I have had any problems or have become stressed, I know there will always be someone there to support me. To work for the NHS you have to have a certain kind of character and this attracts some amazing people and fosters some great relationships too. Some of the best friends I have, have been colleagues I have worked alongside.”
Peter Twose: ‘They put us back together when we are broken.’
“I came off my motorbike on the motorway the day after Boxing Day last year. I destroyed my left thumb joint, I broke my arm and my wrist in four places and I sheared my tibia off up into my kneecap. I had to have a big metal plate put into my wrist and big metal wires put into my hand. Eventually the doctors were able to operate on my knee and screwed a big metal plate into my shinbone. I was completely bed bound throughout and couldn’t do anything for myself, but the nurses were constantly compassionate. It meant that when I couldn’t sleep someone could pass me my laptop, which sounds like a small thing, but that’s the kind of thing that stops you from going crazy when you spend a lot of time on the ward. When I was moved home, the physio and nurses visited me there. I was also given crutches and a knee brace and a ramp to get up the steps to the door. Yesterday the physio helped me walk unaided for the first time this year, and I’m hoping to just keep getting better. The care I have received really has been brilliant – I count myself lucky to get away with a few scars.”
Charlotte Prince: ‘They help us deal with life-altering diagnose.’
“During my first year at university I was diagnosed with cancer. I was treated on a fantastic ward where the nurses became more like friends than anything else. I’m sure many patients say that about their nurses but I sincerely mean it. One memory that springs to mind to prove this is when I had to take part of my chemotherapy orally; I’ve never tasted anything quite like it and I ended up vomiting for a good half an hour. My nurse was so upset that she cried and she wouldn’t stop apologising because she made me do something I didn’t want to do. But this was her job and her care is what made me better! It’s amazing when you meet nurses who care enough about you as individuals to understand that you’re going through one of the most difficult things in your life.”
Paddy Elson: ‘They look after us in our dying moments.’
“When my father had a stroke we went straight to the hospital. He was quickly being looked after in intensive care. The doctors and nurses were checking him, but they were also speaking to him even though nobody knew if he could hear or not. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to get better they were still making sure that he was as comfortable as he could be, not just with drugs, but by rearranging pillows and taking the time to sit with him. In his final moments my dad was treated with the utmost respect: even when they are busy, NHS staff still manage to treat people like people – that makes a real difference.”
Laura Balson, Student medic: ‘They spend years training to look after us.’
”As a medical student studying in London, I feel privileged to be beginning my career with the NHS. Our national health service is world famous for the underlying principle of universal health care for all, regardless of income, and I believe we are all fortunate to have this invaluable service. Throughout our medical training we have access to fantastic resources and exceptional teaching from staff at the top of their fields. We are made to feel part of the team of inspirational doctors, nurses and auxiliary workers right from the beginning, making six years of study more than worthwhile.”
Beth Watton: ‘They are not judgemental in embarrassing situations.’
“On a number of occasions I have experienced the excellent service provided by the NHS whether it was something as minor as visiting a doctor with a bad cold to having scans as a young child for more serious illnesses, however, it was one particular visit to my local sexual health clinic that revealed just how lucky we in the UK are to have this service available to us… for free! At 17 naturally I was quite nervous going for my first sexual health screening, but the clean and comfortable environment combined with a friendly, approachable and trustworthy doctor made the whole experience exactly what it should be – relaxing, informative and thorough. I have since visited two other NHS sexual health clinics and had the same outstanding service I came to expect after that first encounter, taking away any nerves or embarrassment one might feel when going for sexual health tests.”