Opinion

The big question: the NHS at 70. What's your view?

09 July 2018

Three members of the public offer their views on the NHS at 70, professionally and personally.

Surrinder Bains

Health visitor and national Solihull Approach trainer

Bath and North East Somerset

My earliest memories of the NHS were accompanying my mother to her antenatal appointments where she was provided with the latest medical treatment and care, free of charge.

This contrasted starkly with her experiences in India, where I was born in a remote rural village, delivered by an untrained local woman. No pain relief was available and the nearest hospital was a two-day journey by cart, though only for those who could afford to pay.

One negative aspect of having a baby in the UK was that my mother chose to formula-feed her baby. At the time it was seen as progress. This has changed and breastfeeding is now actively promoted. Where I’m working in the Bath and North East Somerset clinical commissioning group, we are working towards Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation.

The NHS has grown, developed and faced new challenges inconceivable at the time it was launched by Aneurin Bevan in 1948. A larger and ageing population demanding ever newer and more expensive treatments has put immense strain on the service.

It’s hard not be affected by negative press about the NHS, but we also have much to be grateful for. Better health education has enabled me to make better choices and to lead a healthier lifestyle than my mother. So here’s raising a glass to the next 70 years.


 

Sonia Shuter

Safeguarding children advisor, children and family health

Woking, Surrey

Happy 70th birthday to the NHS! I’ve been working for you for almost 36 years and have loved my career. But you have certainly changed during my working life – and some of those changes have been absolutely marvellous.

Public health is pivotal to the NHS. Early and free interventions from pregnancy through to childhood mean the NHS has made huge advancements in promoting and maintaining good health. Advances in neuroscience for unborn children have helped us to understand how fragile child development can be. For the large part, diseases have been eradicated through immunisation. Dental health is free for pregnant women and children, and excellent antenatal care means safe births and healthy mums and babies. Education in the NHS also helps identify children at risk of abuse.

For the next 70 years I would love to see a reversal in some of the decisions that have been made in the last decade, such as cuts to public health nursing; cuts to school nursing; and cuts to mental health nursing. It is sad to see these essential roles being eroded in favour of cheaper models of care.

Hopefully some of the £20m recently promised by the government can be put back in to getting people training again, and for the NHS to look proudly on future generations of children who are healthy as a result.


 

Beth Bramley

Community nursery nurse, Dorset Healthcare University Foundation Trust

Poole

Like many people, I have used the NHS for GP appointments, A&E and midwifery services. The service I have received has been first class on every occasion, and the staff have always been very professional.

I also experience the NHS from the professional side. Working in the health visiting service I see the amazing work we are able to deliver to families every day. I also see the difference our intervention makes. The range of services and technology that are provided have increased significantly over the 70 years since the health service was founded.

However, I do think there are downsides to its success. I’ve seen various cuts to our service over the 13 years I’ve been employed in it, and I think about what we offer now compared to then. Is it better? That is up for debate.

We have a great health service, free at the point of access and open to all, though that is sometimes to its detriment. Departments and staff are on their knees; there isn’t enough staff or money, so everyone has to work extra hard, which puts pressure on them all. We need more money to keep the service going and to enable staff to continue to provide an amazing health service.

Picture Credit | Sam Kerr | Alamy

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