We love the NHS

Gillian Cooper
Share: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
It wasn't too long ago since a choir comprised of NHS staff beat popstar Justin Bieber to the Christmas number one spot. The mash-up of Simon & Garfunkel and Coldplay hits, called 'A Bridge Over You', sold some 127,000 copies and had music commentators hail it one of the most unlikely chart successes for years.
One man, however, wasn't quite as surprised by the achievement.

Instead, Joe Blunden, an NHS communications manager and one of the organisers of the choir’s chart campaign, saw it simply as a manifestation of public support for a health service that, more often than not, suffers a bad press. Here, at last, was a way for ordinary men and women to defy the negative headlines and opportunist political rhetoric and celebrate the heroes at the heart of the system. "It’s an historic day for the NHS," Blunden said. "It’s a day that the country has shown just how much they love their NHS."

It was a point made even more explicitly back in March 2016, when a campaign called NHS Million urged people to submit stories of how the health service has helped them since its launch in 1948. The movement's name was taken from the average number of people treated by the NHS in just 36 hours, and it aims to create a corresponding ‘superteam’ of a million people celebrating everything that's great about it.

It's a shot in the arm for NHS staff whose morale, say organisers, "has taken a dip". Stories shared include heart-breaking ones of life and death, as well as references to the NHS's long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth.  To this effect one woman, identified only as 'Laura LT', took the opportunity to express her gratitude: "Because without you I’d be totally…bankrupt. Thank you for 27 years of TLC and life-saving treatment."

Over the years the NHS has grown to become the world's largest publicly funded health service. It is also, its website claims, "one of the most efficient, most egalitarian and most comprehensive". And if those lofty achievements aren't enough, the Guardian compiled a mammoth list of 65 other NHS-friendly facts to coincide with its 65th anniversary celebrations in 2013. Among them, the reminder that it employs 1.4 million people in England and Wales (one in 23 of the working population), and 80% of these employees are female. The article looked back at some of the changes seen in the service too, including how the first full hip replacement in 1962 has led to 1,000 procedures like this being carried out every week, and how average life expectancy has increased by at least 10 years since the NHS came into existence. Then there's the 18 million-strong Organ Donor Register, the 20,000 daily calls to NHS Direct, the breast screening programme... and the episodes of Casualty it's inspired.

Today more than ever, however, the NHS needs to see our love. An NHS trust was forced to launch a crowdfunding appeal to buy equipment for a new hospital unit because "it cannot get started without donations". The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, North West London, is hoping to raise £400,000 for its spinal injuries unit - the government funding it receives being exhausted by frontline staff and services instead.

"I'm on your side / When times get rough," sang the physiotherapists, porters and administrators, doctors and nurses of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir. Maybe it's time to return the favour and show our support for them, too. As we head towards winter, and the inevitable headlines about accident and emergency problems and funding crises, let's remember the best bits too and show some love for its ambition, longevity, duty of care and the extraordinary people who keep it all going.

  • There are no comments yet, why not be the first to post?
Post a comment