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Our NHS and its 70th birthday: The sign of a civilised society

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Ian Peate OBE, Head of School, School Of Health Studies, Gibraltar

The NHS: I was born in it, I was nursed in it, I trained in it, I was and I am often irritated by it, I was gainfully employed by it and I love it. Its founder, Aneurin Bevan, made its mission statement starkly in 1952,when he said: ‘No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.’ The introduction of the NHS was the biggest social change for good in the past century.

At the beating heart of the NHS are its nurses, including all of those who have come from around the globe to work in our NHS, working tirelessly to ensure that the service remains free at the point of need for us.

Not all nurses work in hospitals and not all are employed by the NHS and not all service provision takes place in NHS premises. There are also nurses working in the independent and voluntary sectors, often in the most challenging circumstances. They have and will continue to contribute to the successes of our NHS. Too often this element of the workforce is forgotten.

So to nurses up and down the country, frequently working in the face of adversity who are leading change and adding value to the care experience, your contribution to the health and wellbeing of the nation should never be underestimated.

There is still more to be done, we have mountains to climb in some areas, for example, when it comes to parity of esteem. It is unacceptable that Whitehall mandarins spout out empty rhetoric concerning this often neglected area of care, if there is to be parity of esteem then this needs to be resourced appropriately and this resource includes finances as well as a work force that is both fit for purpose and fit for practice.

You cannot expect to provide high quality, safe and effective nursing care on a shoestring. If the patient is to be at the centre then the provision of a world class, quality service will cost. Continuing to use the NHS as a political football, to score points from, seeking short term political gains is doing nobody any favours.

What our health and social care services need is a long-term and bigger financial commitment. A 5-year forward plan is out of date before it is even published and while attempts are made to implement it. How the extra resources needed to invest in the health and social services are to be raised remains undecided despite government promises of a cash injection.

The NHS was created on the premise that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth, and this underpinning principle remains at the core of the service. Our NHS may be seen by some as a loved, ageing aunt with a number of long term, ailing conditions. Be this as it may, the nurses and other staff ensuring that the NHS remains a cutting edge service are not. These are dynamic, skilled, innovative, compassionate and good value-for-money professionals. All they ask is to be remunerated fairly and given the right tools to do the job properly. If we can get this right, the NHS will remain for another 70 years.

Ian Peate OBE, Head of School, School Of Health Studies, Gibraltar

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