As you may have guessed, I’m really close to my mum, she reads the blog and tells me what she thinks about it (and nags me about my inability to proof read properly.) I’ve been telling her she should write me a post, so I can have a day off and she has been agreeing but stalling because she said she didn’t have a topic, when she got involved in this, she didn’t have any excuses….
Hi, I’m Jillian and Nic asked me to do a post for her. I was struggling with what to write about when fate intervened and the subject presented itself. I work for PwC (a financial services company) and they are currently running an initiative on NHS@75 – asking the public about their NHS experiences and how they think the NHS will look in 2023 – and they asked their staff if they would be interested in contributing to this.
I was born just after the NHS was founded, I received a lot of care from it when I was a child, I’ve worked in the NHS (as a nurse and in administration) and I’ve seen it in action caring for close relatives, so I was anxious to take part in the video that was being produced, giving a viewpoint to someone from every decade from the Forties to now. Success! Here is the link to the video and yes, I am the person talking about the 1940s and the set up of the NHS (I think I was the only one born in the ’40’s that volunteered!)
Doing this meant I had to think quite deeply about what the introduction of the NHS had meant to people, particularly to me and my family, who were working class (Dad worked in a factory, Mum was a housewife after 1946, when my brother was born), so money was tight. Before 1948, men who were employed were ‘on the panel’* and so were covered for seeing the doctor but there was nothing for wives and children. So, very often, a visit to the doctor meant less (or no) money for food or rent or clothes.
Fortunately for me, I was born in December 1948, five months after the NHS came into being. From the age of 4 until I was about 11, I had dodgy lungs**, so spent lots of time in hospital or having physiotherapy 3 times a week, being sent off to Broadstairs to convalesce and get really well (the NHS used to do things like that!). I was lucky, I got all this treatment free at the point of delivery, my parents didn’t have to make difficult decisions about what to spend their limited income on – had I been born a few years earlier, there was no way they could have afforded to pay, however much they went without to try and find the money, so who knows what the outcome would have been.
Thinking about this and what it meant to me has reinforced my belief that the founding of the NHS was one of the best and most civilised things that Britain has ever done; done at a time when the country was on it’s knees and deep in debt; done because people matter and lack of money shouldn’t stop them being healed; done because it was the right thing to do.
There have been some uncomfortable stories coming out from the NHS lately and the legislation (Health & Social Care Act) currently being implemented will fundamentally change the basis on which the NHS was founded. That basis was that people have intrinsic value, not related to their material worth, and that they matter. I recognise that there are demands on the NHS, far beyond anything anticipated when it was set up; as a country, we have to decide how much we value our NHS and how much we are prepared to give in tax, to defend it. Once it’s gone, once the principle of universality is undermined, it won’t come back – no government will ever have the courage to bring it back.
* The National Health Insurance, introduced in 1911, offered benefits to the contributor below a certain level of income but did not include dependants. Contributions were not graduated according to income but were paid at a flat rate – approximately half by the employee and half by the employer. In return for their contributions, individuals received cash benefits for sickness, accident and disability, paid at a fixed rate, regardless of severity that were distributed through insurance companies. Contributors also had the right to free but limited care from a doctor on a local list or panel. However, hospital treatment was only paid for if the contributor had tuberculosis.
**not only dodgy lungs, she also had a hole in her cochlea in her ear that caused her to fall over and off things..