Friday, 6 July 2018

The NHS at 70

Yesterday the NHS turned seventy years old. I am profoundly grateful for it. Happy (belated) birthday to the NHS.

Happy Birthday NHS graphic.
Without the NHS I would not have anything approaching the quality of life I have now. I have a number of complex, tricky to treat medical conditions which require specialist input, medications and a lot of management. The NHS has helped me with everything from hayfever and asthma right through to providing specialist equipment and inpatient rehabilitation programmes. Without the NHS I am certain that my medical costs would have sunk my family's finances long ago.

I have received more than my fair share of medical treatment, if I were to estimate the cost of the care I've received it would easily tally into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. I am so thankful that I live in a country which values the lives of people like me; that provides such healthcare free at the point of need regardless of income, earnings potential or insurance.

Because of the NHS I can take the medications I need without having to ration them, concerned about the cost of the next box.
Because of the NHS I can rest easily at night knowing that if my asthma worsens I can get support quickly.
Because of the NHS I was able to get a toenail ablation instead of living with constant infections.
Because of the NHS I have been able to see the top specialists for my rare conditions who know the ins and outs of bodies like mine, who are able to tweak and fine tune and teach me tricks that mean I can get out of bed in the morning.
Because of the NHS I have a wheelchair that frees me to live more independently, to go to uni and to be part of my community.

Me in my wheelchair at uni, the NHS has made this possible.

But the NHS is struggling, I've watched things get tighter and tighter over the last few years. Costs are rising, demand is growing but the budgets have not. When budgets don't rise in line with needs that means either cuts to services, crisis as they become overstretched, or both. Right now we are seeing both.

The NHS is wonderful but it needs to be properly funded! Hospitals need more beds, more staff, more wiggle room. To try and cut its spending we have just recently seen a whole host of treatments been removed from standard NHS care, to be only used in highly specific cases. Treatments which may prevent conditions worsening, which reduce pain are now becoming harder to get. Highly specialised care like that which I receive requires proof that all other treatments have failed and often a GP who understands and is able to fight your case (which is not always easy to get when you only have a 10 minute appointment).

More and more the NHS is struggling to provide even emergency care, with the winter crisis period lasting ever longer. People are treated on trolleys, in corridors and in waiting rooms as hospitals fight to keep their doors open. This is not just about NHS cuts either, it links into social care cuts as people cannot get the support they need to leave hospital, it links to benefit cuts as people are unable to produce nourishing food when benefits are removed, sanctioned or delayed, it links to public health spending to maintain the general health of the population through cancer screenings and infectious disease control.

If we want to maintain the NHS, if we as a society still agree that healthcare is a right and not a privilege then we must address the funding shortages, we must address the staffing shortages, we must address the swinging cuts across public services which are putting the NHS at risk. The NHS is precious and we must safeguard it for the next generation.

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