Happy 70th birthday to the NHS and all who sail in her
As a baby boomer, I grew up with the very best of the NHS. One day, when I was 7, my mother made a cake, and in time honoured tradition I was given the very nearly scraped clean mixing bowl to run my finger round and gather up any remaining mixture her spatula had not caught. A little while later, I started to complain of stomach pains, but received short shrift from my mother, who muttered darkly that this was the last time I would be allowed to go anywhere near a mixing bowl.
After several more hours, and as the pains were getting much worse, my mother called the family doctor. His name was Dr Thomas Foot, but to us he was always known as ‘Uncle Tom’. I have no idea what time of day this was, but soon after her call he appeared at our house. After examining me he had a word with my mother. She came back into my bedroom where I lay groaning and told me we were now going to have a ride in her car to a hospital. Uncle Tom would drive his car and she and I would follow him there. In his gentle way our doctor did not want me to be frightened by a ride in an ambulance with sirens and lights.
My operation for acute appendicitis took place a few hours later. Eleven years later, whilst studying for his own medical degree, my elder brother started to experience some disturbing symptoms. He had a pretty good idea as to what was happening, but his first port of call was not to any one of the brilliant medics at Guy’s Hospital where he studied. Instead he headed out to west London to have a quiet chat with Uncle Tom.
Nowadays it is difficult to get an appointment with a GP, and if you want to see your ‘family doctor’ then you may have to wait even longer. But as recent research shows (and only confirming what we all knew anyway), patients respond much better to continuity of care, as supported by the Family Doctor Association, which campaigns for just this. If you want to know more, then do read: http://www.family-doctor.org.uk/pages/continuity-of-care.aspx.
At the thrilling opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London in 2012 we all watched, gasped and cheered at the proud celebration of the NHS as a key component of British society and its achievements. And I haven’t forgotten about Bond and Her Maj, or Thomas Heatherwick’s beautiful flaming cauldron, but I know which image resonated most with me.
We all have our own extraordinary stories of the NHS and what is has done for us, our families and friends, and there is no shortage of heartfelt tributes and wonderful stories currently flooding the media.
I will leave you with a lovely quote I just spotted from Dr Malcom Griffiths, a consultant vascular and trauma surgeon: ‘The NHS is a grand lady who watches over us every day’.
Ain’t that a dame?