Damian writes a regular column for the Petersfield Post, and this week's article celebrates the 70th anniversary of the NHS:
The NHS is turning 70 this week; the perfect opportunity to celebrate this most loved and respected institution.
It was the 5th July 1948 when the then Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, launched the NHS at Park Hospital in Manchester, and for the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella organisation.
A truly ambitious plan to bring good healthcare to all, free at the point of delivery. And that intent is as relevant today as it was all those years ago, albeit on a scale and with far greater complexity that few could have imagined at the time.
As it happens, Park Hospital, now called Trafford General, is near to where I grew up and decades after that auspicious day for the NHS, we relied on it for care for my mother. Her own connection to the NHS was her earlier role as a dental nurse, while my father was for part of his career a community pharmacist. Among aunts and uncles and cousins, I have current or retired doctors and nurses.
As important as the close connections many of us have to the NHS, is how much we all rely on it at our times of greatest need, for us, for our parents and for our children. Whenever my family have needed to go to QA or Basingstoke or Southampton the care has been exemplary. In my own surgery, and in correspondence, I regularly hear from constituents of their deep appreciation for the quality of care through our NHS.
The NHS has delivered amazing medical advances and improvements to public health during its lifetime, meaning we can all expect to live longer lives. Just within my lifetime, average life expectancy in the UK has increased by around a decade.
The relative weight of what the NHS does is also in change. In my current role as Education Secretary, I am often in conversations about children and young people’s mental health. There has been some combination of greater prevalence of issues, greater awareness, and greater diagnosis. I’m pleased we’ve brought forward a Green Paper, jointly between DfE and the Health department, backed with £300m of additional resourcing.
We also think more these days about the role of prevention and public healthcare programmes. Amazing progress has been made on smoking, but alcohol abuse is a concern - and then there’s obesity.
This is an important area for Government action. From the soft drinks levy introduced in 2015, to new consultations announced last week on calorie labelling, banning the sale of harmful, caffeine-laden energy drinks to children, and new TV and online advertising restrictions to prevent children from being targeted with foods high in fat, sugar and salt. There is also a national ambition for every primary school to adopt a daily ‘active mile’ initiative.
And primary care remains at the heart of communities. We are fortunate to have such dedicated GPs in Petersfield, Alton, Liphook, Bordon and throughout East Hampshire.
The NHS story is certainly one of evolution, but it is also one about people – the everyday heroes that work in it. We are all proud of them, admire them, and our truly national health service.
For more information on the NHS turning 70, head to: https://www.england.nhs.uk/nhs70/
Written by Damian Hinds and published in the Petersfield Post on 4th July 2018