Happy Birthday to the NHS!
The NHS is 70 years old and I am immensely proud of that. In fact, I think it is the one thing that everyone in the UK should be proud of. A world class healthcare system that is free at the point of need. It’s wonderful isn’t it?
My life is devoted to the NHS, I eat, sleep and breathe in that hospital smell that the rest of you loathe. And I love it.
Yet on the 70th birthday on the NHS I feel angry.
I feel angry because whilst I was born and raised with the NHS, I worry that my children may not be. I fear that the National Health Service as we know it is critically ill and I’m terrified that its days are numbered.
And what really grinds my gears is when I see politicians on TV wearing #NHS70 badges, tweeting about how proud they are of the NHS while simultaneously dismantling it. I abhor their arrogance. The way they can sit their shamelessly despite the fact that they are running the NHS to the ground. We are 10,000 doctors short, 40,000 nurses and around 15,000 beds fewer since 2010. Theresa May has not ruled out the NHS being part of the UK-USA trade deals and our government is proud of itself. The NHS survives despite the government not because of it and it survives due to the good will of its staff.
I have spent 6912 hours so far working in the NHS and have volunteered many more. In those 6912 hours I have felt just about every emotion there is. I have been elated, overjoyed, shocked, devastated, frustrated, angry, hurt, ashamed, guilty, hopeful and relieved. I have had soaring highs and crushing lows. I have laughed until my stomach ached and I couldn’t breathe through the giggles and I have sobbed and wailed through swollen tired eyes.
I have assisted in the births of tiny perfect humans and held them while their mothers were being cared for. I have played silly games with children, done crosswords with the elderly, made cups of tea, mopped floors, wiped mouths. I have held the hand of a patient in the middle of the night while they told me their deepest fears. I have sat with a family well past my home time to discuss end of life plans for their dad. I have explained options after the ultrasound showed the sac was empty or the biopsy was positive or the scan showed a mass.
I have listened to a thousand stories, all unique and novel and none of them forgotten.
I have run to a cardiac arrest petrified and full of adrenaline waiting for my training to kick in so that I can forget the emotion and do the job. I have pushed aside the tears as, exhausted and unsuccessful, I have returned to my job list which is now longer than I care to know. I have gone to see the next patient minutes after only to be shouted at because they have been waiting several hours and they are scared.
I have been pushed and scratched, hit and kicked and called a fucking bitch. I have physically prevented patients from harming themselves and negotiated with a man wielding a chair as a weapon.
I have felt like the biggest failure in the world and I have lain awake at night wondering what I could have done better.
But never have I ever regretted choosing medicine.
The NHS is not a smooth clean machine. It is clunky, disorganised and inefficient. It is flawed. But it is resilient. The staff are dedicated, passionate and loyal. The nurses, doctors, physios, occupational therapists, pharmacists, cleaners, porters and secretaries, each have a unique role and responsibility, each vital in its own way.
No, the NHS is nowhere near perfect, but it is incredible.
When I think of my patients, I feel frustrated that I can’t always offer them all the services I want to because we don’t have the money. I feel angry that I have let them down because there is nothing more I can do. But I wonder where these patients would be without the NHS. Most cannot afford private healthcare insurance. They could not pay for treatment. Many of them are homeless, many more unemployed because they are too sick to work and they lack the kinds of practical skills needed to fill in application forms for housing and benefits. We help them with that by the way, it’s not “our job” but we do. The government tells us not to, tells us to do more with less, cuts our funding but expects the same care, the same results. So we push harder, try to pour from our empty jug, to squeeze the last few drops.
And when I look to the future, I am petrified that we will lose it all. The plan to privatise is already in place and a large part of our services are private already just people aren’t aware of it.
(Supporting the #wearyourNHS campaign by Dr Lauren Gavaghan – get your Tshirt designed by Vivienne Westwood at wearyournhs.teemill.co.uk)
Well, I don’t want to feel ashamed when I look back in 30 years time. No, I want to be celebrating 100 years of the NHS not mourning its death. And for that reason I am and will continue to fight the privatisation of the NHS.
Our NHS is not yours to sell.
As Aneurin Bevan said in 1948 “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it’
So please, don’t let them take it away.
(Check out the Great NHS Heist for more info on privatisation in the NHS)