Tomorrow marks the seventieth anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service. This is a significant anniversary and one which is rightly getting lots of media coverage.
With this anniversary looming large, I thought it was an appropriate time to write a blog about my recent experiences. There will be countless people writing about the politics and policies of the NHS, and they will know far more than me; so I’ll avoid the pitfalls of straying into this territory.
As regular readers of this blog will know, my partner Charlotte and I recently lost our daughter Tilly. She was born at 25 weeks +1 and was sadly too little to survive.
Our experiences of the NHS started like most other expectant families, but from 20 weeks onwards, things were anything other than normal. From this point, we experienced the care of three different NHS trusts in three different counties – Cumbria, Tyne and Wear and Lancashire.
Despite the change in circumstances, and the different trusts, one thing was consistent across them all – care.
It’s a big word, and it means lots of things to different people, but at almost every point in our journey, it was this that stuck in our minds.
For me it ranges from the little things like the midwife trawling to try and find me some cheap accommodation when Charlotte was transferred to Newcastle, to the almost-parental support we received from the midwives after Tilly was born.
It’s things like the staff making sure I had a lunch or dinner when I was on the ward, or that every single night, the midwives’ handover and introduction to Charlotte took place a long time after their shift had finished.
Or the midwife who hunted us down to give Charlotte a much needed hug when her waters broke, to the one who accompanied Charlotte in the ambulance, so that she wasn’t on her own (incidentally, she finished work late and 50 miles from where she started her working day).
And things like providing us with rooms away from the delivery suites and newly born babies, where we had time for Charlotte to start recovering, us to start grieving, and to be kept in a constant supply of cups of coffee.
Midwives constantly went above and beyond our expectations, doing everything they could to make our experience less painful than it might be. They did this because they cared.
Our experience of the doctors and consultants was also as positive. I think back fondly to the consultant who squeezed us in for an appointment in trying circumstances, who showed so much compassion that I nearly broke down in tears at his empathy. Our consultant – a European expert, no less – was blunt, frank and honest in his communications with us, but despite this, managed to combine these traits with compassion. And care.
At nearly every point in our sad journey, we felt like we were treated like humans, like individuals, like far more than a number or name on a list.
And in our, ultimately, tragic circumstances, this is what we needed more than anything.
Whilst I don’t want this to be a political point, this care, was all offered to us by the world’s largest publicly funded health care service – one which is founded on the principle that good quality health care should be available to all, free at the point of delivery and from cradle to grave. In my mind, it’s hard to argue against that.
So, this blog post is my small, and somewhat clumsy attempt at recognising the great work of the almost 1.5 million people who make up the NHS. Thank you. Thank you for caring.