NHS 75: Much to celebrate?

The Revd Fran Kissack, a United Reformed Church minister and NHS hospital chaplain of more than 20 years, reflects on the NHS’ 75th anniversary, celebrated on 5 July.

In a short video, Fran reflects on what its founder, Nye Bevan, might feel about the state of the under-resourced health service today, the commitment of its dedicated workers during the pandemic, and how we have much to be grateful for an organisation that cares for us from cradle to grave.

The NHS has saved my life! Maybe it has saved yours. And perhaps, like me, you have largely forgotten. Many of us take our health for granted. We take the NHS for granted too, until we need it.

75 years ago healthcare in the UK was transformed by the vision credited to Nye Bevan of a National Health Service which:
– meets the needs of all
– is free at the point of delivery
– is based upon clinical need not ability to pay

So much has been achieved. Lives are changed every day by the care of dedicated staff. We have come to rely upon the NHS, and to trust an organisation which has done so much for us. There is so much that is right about the NHS and yet today Nye Bevan must be turning in his grave, as treatment waits grow, GPs in some areas are all but inaccessible and healthcare inequalities deepen. It doesn’t feel like time to celebrate.

Good health is a basic human need. Like the disabled man in John 5:6 we want to be made well. He was healed, by Jesus, who knew the importance of good health, who healed so many even at risk to himself. God has given us the ability to care with compassion, and to bring healing in so many ways. Advances in medical care have extended and improved life immeasurably for so many. But health inequalities are increasing. Poverty is contributing to a reduction in life expectancy. It is true that the measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. What does that say about us? For 75 years we have been cared for in times of need by the NHS, and now that National Health Service feels to be under threat.

I am proud to have worked in the NHS as a hospital chaplain for more than 20 years. I know that the NHS is so much more than the sum of all of those who work in it. But without them it is nothing. In the pandemic my friends made their wills, and then held the hands of dying covid patients, and risked their lives. They cared.

Image: Luke Jones/Unsplash.

Let us celebrate that 75 year commitment of colleagues: cleaners, porters, receptionists, admin and laboratory staff, allied health professionals, managers, nurses, doctors and so many more, not with applause, and not even just by paying the people who care for us properly, although that would be nice, but by working to ensure that the NHS is resourced, staffed and fit to care for everyone as they need – from the cradle to the grave. For in the words of Michael Rosen’s poem for the 60th anniversary of the NHS “These are the hands that touch us first… and hold us last.”

Image: John Cameron/Unsplash.

Let us pray

God of life and love

We celebrate 75 years of our National Health Service.
We rejoice in the vision which birthed it.
We pray for those charged with its continued well-being,
asking for commitment, vision and compassionate leadership.

We give thanks for the miracle of healthcare.
For all in the NHS whose skill, dedication and compassion we rely upon.

We commit to work for justice in healthcare provision,
for care for all who need it – according to their need.

In the name of Jesus who came to bring life we pray.

Image: Nicolas J Leclercq/Unsplash.