Thursday, 28 June 2018

Happy 70th - here’s to the NHS

For anyone reaching 70 it is a significant milestone warranting cake, presents and warm wishes. When the septuagenarian is the biggest social reform in the UK’s history that calls for a real party.

Our NHS is  an institution that is in equal measure revered and reviled. There are few days when it fails to hit the headlines for good and bad and few days where it does not touch our lives in one way or another.

The one thing that unites everyone though is that when you need health care it is there for you no matter what your finances, your social standing or your position. Free of charge you have access to the wonderful staff, porters to surgeons, nurses and carers who are the backbone of the NHS and it is their dedication and commitment which shines through.

Anyone who is a fan of ‘Call the Midwife’ will have seen a snapshot of the NHS in its infancy. Helping people who in the past could not afford medical care or medication and here it was free and available to all. It was a culture shock which took time for people to believe in. Before the NHS so many could not afford treatment. There was a large emphasis on self-reliance keeping oneself well to prevent being ill.

Part of me worries that that responsibility for our own health is being lost as we rely too heavily on the NHS and not enough on preserving our health, on keeping ourselves well and making good decisions about health, as well as using the precious facilities we do have responsibly.

Since 1948 we, as a nation, have changed dramatically. The population has grown rapidly with 65 million people now in the UK.

Thankfully people are living much longer but we know that with that comes more needs as people live for longer with complex needs and conditions needing more support.

As the leader of a county council I am more than aware of the pressure that longer living places on the services surrounding the NHS. We rightly celebrate our older population in West Sussex but with that comes a responsibility to provide a high level of social care to support and care for people through our adult social care services.

The Government has announced a £20bn birthday present for the NHS and that should be welcomed, of that there is no doubt. But this is tinged with disappointment for me that there wasn’t a more all-encompassing commitment around the need for funding across the system, without tackling the dearth in funding for social care the money for the NHS can only go so far. As we celebrate this great institution let us be brave and ambitious for it, let us build an NHS and social care system which is modern and fit for supporting the country we are now, not the country of the 40s.

So Happy 70th NHS, thank you to each and every one of you who works in or with the NHS and keeps us healthy and well and cares for us when we ill.

I for one will raise a glass to you this week – but in a responsible way!

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