Thursday, 5 July 2018

Thoughts From a Mum on the NHS at 70

NHS at 70 - Photo taken inside Southmead HospitalLike most parents, I've had a lot of dealings with the NHS over the years, and I thought it was only right that I should recognise its 70th birthday. I have written political commentary previously on the struggles that the NHS faces and I still  do worry about our government's commitment to this service and the effect of budget cuts and sneaky privatisation. Today isn't about that, though, today is about celebrating a service that many of us, including me, don't often stop to appreciate. It's about recognising what the NHS, as a whole, actually means and what it gives to us as a nation. 

I was lucky enough to have private health care for the latter part of my childhood, so the first encounters that I remember with the NHS began when I had my first child at 18. I took for granted that I had nothing to worry about, aside from the usual pregnancy nerves, and even that was taken care of by a midwife on the end of the phone. I saw health professionals when I needed to, and, when the time came, my baby was delivered safely in a clean, well-stocked, purpose-built facility, surrounded by all the training and expertise we could ever need. Which sounds like normal life, until you consider that in some parts of Africa, childbirth is considered the riskiest thing a woman can do. Compared to the regular home visits I received, to check how we were both doing, in the world's poorest countries, 2.6 million babies die every year before they reach a month old. 

When I had my second child, ten years later, things didn't go so well. He was breech, but turned at the last minute, I went into premature labour, which was stopped with drugs, then I had such a traumatic birth, I was in surgery for over an hour and lost so much blood that I was kept in for almost a week. During my stay, we were both monitored frequently and it was one of those exceptional nurses who was so alert that she noticed a slight rise in my newborn son's temperature. Whisked off to NICU, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur and, following a lumbar puncture, a serious infection that could have ended his short life, had it not been detected so quickly. 

New born baby sleeping

There have been other occasions when we have relied on the swift and unquestioning treatment available to us from the NHS at a moment's notice. When my daughter developed asthma, there were many times when she required a nebuliser, and even a short stay on a ward with pneumonia when she was just three. The NHS was always there, in the background, ready and waiting to keep my daughter alive at the drop of a hat. Which is how it should be, right? Wrong. In developed countries without an NHS system, you have to have insurance and depending on your policy, there can be elements you need to pay for, and it can get expensive, many people end up in a lot of debt, because they don't have a choice about seeking treatment they need. I have never considered how much it actually costs to provide those services to my children, because I have never needed to, which is astounding, when you think about it. 

If I had been born in a different country, a poorer nation, I may not have survived my son's birth. My children would almost certainly not have made it through their childhood illnesses. If the NHS was not there, and I had to fund all of the healthcare myself, I may have had to make tough decisions, particularly regarding my own healthcare, if I wasn't able to afford the treatment or medicine. Thanks to the swift actions of that nurse, when my son was two days old and the ongoing treatment my daughter received for her asthma, I am one of many parents who will be grateful for the NHS at every single one of my children's milestones. Not just for the tireless commitment of staff, many who are overstretched and underpaid, but also for the availability of equipment, medicines and facilities when they are needed most, without worry of financial constraints or mounting debt. Some people say the NHS is failing, but actually it is performing exceptionally well, whilst being failed. I hope one day the NHS gets the funding it desperately needs, to provide the services it is so good at, because this is a service that genuinely benefits every one of us at one time or another. 

With thanks to Heather, from All the Ups and Downs, for her help with this post. Check out her blog for all things books and an insight into her battle with Crohn's disease. 


1 comment

  1. We take the NHS for granted don't we! I had an awful birth too and a blood transfusion. If it wasn't for the NHS I dread to think what could have happened


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