Proud to wish our health service a happy 70th birthday
Thursday 5th July 2018 06:30 Ashton Health News Tameside Posted by Nigel Skinner

Former Ashton GP and Chair of Tameside Healthwatch Dr Kailash Chand, OBE, wishes the NHS a happy 70th birthday – but says to survive, the NHS will need to adopt a new model of healthcare…

Ask what makes people proud to be British and the NHS is forever top. The NHS is celebrating its 70th birthday today (Thursday) and remains Britain’s most cherished public service and one of the fairest systems of healthcare in the world.

It started with the opening of Park Hospital in Manchester on July 5, 1948, by the then Labour government headed by Clement Attlee, under the principle that treatment should be ‘free for all at the point of delivery.’

The idea of uniting all the country’s hospitals and doctors’ surgeries into one great state-run conglomerate had germinated during the Second World War, when the volume of casualties reduced the health service to near-bankruptcy.

It has been described as one of the greatest social achievements of the 20th century with its promise to care for the British people from cradle to grave.

In 1948, at the NHS’s founding, we still had the burden of the infectious diseases with very limited availability of antibiotics, hardly any anti-cancer drugs or cardio-
vascular disease treatments.

This has all changed, thanks in part to research and innovations in the NHS, which has brought the world vaccination, penicillin, IVF, stem cell transplants, artificial hips and MRI scanners, and knowledge of the structure of DNA.

In more recent times, we have seen innovations like mechanical thrombectomy to improve stroke survival, bionic eyes to restore sight, and surgical breakthroughs such as hand transplants.  When the NHS was founded in 1948, the life expectancy for men was 66, and for women, 71. Today those figures are 77.2 and 81.5.

Dr Kailash Chand

 

Growing up in India, I dreamed of moving to Britain and working for its health service. Fulfilling that dream has been a huge privilege. Working at all levels of the NHS, I have learned that the NHS will always need to change to match emerging science and shifting disease profiles, and to meet increasing demand within a set budget.

Our task now as a nation is to enable the NHS to properly adapt to medical advances and public expectations.

The NHS must move from a treatment model of care to one of prevention. Decisions made at the health service’s inception created the problems we see today.

Social care was never integrated with the NHS, and domiciliary care has always been left to a mixture of private companies and local councils.

Our NHS needs a new model of healthcare. It needs proper transparency and accountability. If politicians are to remain involved at the heart of the NHS, then it should be to ensure it gets the funding it needs, not to ready it for an insurance-based system.

The NHS is in desperate need of more funding. It may cost a lot, but the cost of an NHS collapse would be catastrophic. The Kings Fund and Nuffield Trust estimate that NHS funding will be £4bn below what is needed in 2018-19.

They say that by the end of the current parliament we will face a £20bn spending gap. Right now, the finance directors of just under half of all NHS trusts, predict that they will end the current financial year in deficit. Here in Tameside and Glossop alone, the local NHS is expected by NHS England to reduce its expenditure by several million pounds by 2020.

This is all happening under the guise of encouraging ‘sustainability and transformation’ of the NHS. The ICO (integrated Care Organisation) is committed to improve the health of its residents, but without resources and adequate funding, how can it get better? To our credit, the local council, facing itself huge cuts, is supporting the ICO through disease prevention via education, housing and transport policies, and social services are doing their best to help keep people out of hospital.

Politicians of all stripes have for too long avoided confronting hard truths about rising demand for health services and how to meet the cost.

After eight years of meagre one per cent rises, the PM marks the 70th birthday of NHS with a larger boost – but is it enough? This government’s birthday present to the NHS is mere wrapping paper. The PM has fixed upon the 70th birthday for its rebirth, but half measures will signal an ending, not a new beginning.

Healthcare is a human right and everyone, regardless of income, class, race, mental/physical ability or sexual orientation has a right to good health and care.

The pooling and sharing of risk on a national basis and public services free at the point of use, as Bevan said, liberate us from fear. The NHS is a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world, demonstrating that universal, publicly funded healthcare is possible.

The world would be a better, healthier place if every country had an NHS.

Happy 70th birthday to the people’s NHS!