The NHS70: Why the NHS is part of all of our stories.

Danny Bowman is Director of Mental Health at Parliament Street

The NHS, our national health service, an exemplary example of the British spirit, an organisation that has experienced winter crisis’s, outbreaks of disease, the largest mental health epidemic in my lifetime. The organisation that has always been a place of comfort for individuals suffering from life threatening health problems and has shown resilience against desperate times.

The writing of this blog post got me thinking about how my family has been helped by the national health service, how my family may have contributed their small part in its long history, and how my family can continue to play a role in the sustainability of the national health service.

It got me thinking about my parents, both leaving school with few qualifications, but worked hard to gain more, choosing to pursue mental health nursing in the NHS. At the time such a profession was not the most popular path to take, but they believed at the time that it would be interesting and valued the opportunity of providing a service that would support the most vulnerable, with my grandfather telling my mum “it may not be glamorous work, but you will get a great pension” back in 1980.

Working in the NHS can be unbelievably difficult and straining, with the days’ work not ending at 5pm. My parents would come home, discussing with each other how best to approach a certain situation, heeding the advice provided. My mum reminded me when I was writing this portrayal of their time in this “valued public service”, that for all the strains of working in the NHS, these strains were/are outmatched by the true joy of working in it, and the absolute privilege she felt/feels being part of a team that worked hard to deliver and continue to deliver for their patients.

They have now done almost 35 years in this improbable success story. The baton has now been passed to my middle sister. Abbie is now a qualified nurse in the NHS; four and a half years into her NHS journey which started in late 2013. She describes the same feeling as my parents did, the privilege she feels in helping others and being part of the NHS team, maintaining the nation’s health.

But, the national health service has helped me, not through the privilege of working in this organisation on the frontline, but by being on the other side as a service-user. When I was diagnosed with OCD at the age of eleven, the NHS was there to provide me with support at the Maudsley Hospital in London. When I developed a body image disorder, the NHS was there to lift me up, back to health and with the promise of further treatment if I needed it. I now am extremely well, at university, and working.

The story of my family and its relationship with the national health service is not singular, but shared by most people in this nation. We all know a sick loved one who has been brought back to health in the NHS, or a grandparent, parent, or sibling who does the nightshift at the local A&E or in the day delivers babies as a midwife, working as a mental health professional in CAMHS, working as a GP at the local clinic, or a care worker helping elderly people live a fulfilling life.

The NHS could have been a political implementation like most, that lasted a short period of time, taken away by the next government, or falling under the pressure of increased need, but it didn’t. The NHS on its own isn’t special, what makes the national health service special is the people who work in it. The caring, compassionate, prevailing spirit of them people is the reason the NHS has made it to 70. That prevailing spirit won’t go away, and for all those who deny the capability of the NHS, they are missing something, something that is in no doubt, the commitment and the perseverance of people from all walks of life who provide this valued public service.

Happy Birthday to the NHS and most importantly to the staff that make this improbable organisation possible.


Comments are closed.