This weekend we are celebrating 72 years of our wonderful NHS, our National Health Service, and remembering those who have lost their lives as a result of Covid19. Landmarks across the country have been floodlit in blue, including the New Mill in Saltaire. It houses offices for the Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, which administers mental health care, dentistry, community health and specialist learning disability services in the local area.
It is a poignant anniversary this year, as we consider the huge and vital role our health services have had to play in the coronavirus pandemic, and the sacrifices its staff have had to make, not least those who have sadly lost their own lives through ministering to others. (And it's not over yet...)
The NHS is just a little older than me! Conceived during the war years, it was launched with cross-party support in 1948 by the post-war Labour government under the leadership of Aneurin Bevan, then Minister for Health. (Though initially it was opposed by many doctors.) For the first time it brought all health care under one umbrella, free at the point of need. It has, of course, been endlessly 'reviewed' and reorganised over the years, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. There has always been the headache of how to pay for a service that has become increasingly stretched, with ever-increasing demand and rising costs as technology and our expectations have developed. For the past decade or more it has arguably been underfunded and undervalued, with steady attrition and privatisation. Who knows what the future holds? One can only hope that the current crisis has focussed the minds that have the power, to make them see just how vital it is to have a joined-up health service that cares for everyone equally, as envisaged all those years ago.
I was born into its care and it has shepherded me through many major and minor traumas, as well safely delivering the precious gift of my daughter. I am grateful to the NHS and those who work in it. I sincerely hope it will be there to see me to my grave!! (But not yet!)