I could go on and on here about the socialist ideals of the NHS and how this fits with my personal values but you all know that and chances are if you follow my blog you will have similar values. What I will share with you here is a story, my personal story of what the NHS means to me. The NHS is made up of millions of personal stories, stories played out each day. Stories which bring both laughter and tears, amazement and despair. This is just my story.
I was born in an NHS maternity hospital in 1980 and there’s are photographs to prove it, in the manner of Princess Diana and Charles stood outside cradling William even with similar haircuts and fashion choices I was introduced to the world, or to Newcastle at least. I wasn’t an easy birth apparently and needed lots of assistance, imagine if my parents had been expecting me pre NHS and had to fund all that extra support. Would I be here?
As I child I was about as clumsy as its possible to be and was always breaking bones or injuring myself in some other way. My mum was a single parent by now so money was tight, imagine if she had been forced to choose between me seeing a doctor and having X-rays against household essentials such as food or heating. The NHS was just there, always had been in my lifetime and I am guilty of taking it for granted, I think lots of us did/do though.
I was 16 when I first shared with my GP how low I felt, it was the mid 90’s and Prozac nation had arrived so I was handed my first prescription for antidepressants. I only took them for two weeks because I suddenly felt amazing which in hindsight was my first taste of hypomania. Fast forward a few years in which I learned how to manage my mood whenever it bounced which wasn’t too often so thankfully I could still study.
When I was 25 I became pregnant with our first child and wow I probably am solely responsible for the financial crisis in the NHS I used it so much! I had hyperemesis so was sick 25-30 times each day, I was in and out of hospital for fluids. Despite the horrors of how pregnancy left me my gorgeous daughter was quite comfortable and needed an NHS eviction notice (induction) to get her out. 24 hours labour and an emergency section later she was in my arms. Imagine that without the NHS? My Nanna is 91 and tells me how many births had sad outcomes before the NHS because people couldn’t afford an attended birth. When our daughter was born she was blue and needed 4 rounds of resuscitation followed by treatment in special care, again we took this for granted, its what she needed and it is what she got. As I look over the sofa at 5’3″ of lively 11 year old, good grief I am thankful. I am so thankful that in my lifetime healthcare has always been free at the point of need in this country but I am conscious of my Nanna’s memories of pre-NHS lets never go back there.
The NHS didn’t get rid of us once our daughter was born because I thin suffered with severe postnatal depression. I spent the first five weeks racing around manically then depression hit like a shovel in the face. Huge efforts by NHS staff to keep me at home but alas I needed hospital, five months later I was discharged after medication, talking therapy and ECT in a unit which cost nearly £1000 per night to look after me. This stay in hospital meant that my husband still has a wife and my daughter still has a mummy.
At age 82 my Nanna developed bowel cancer but no one said she was too old to treat, she was treated just as any other person with the disease and to the credit of the NHS doctors, nurses, OT’s, physio’s and all the other people she met she not only survived but she thrived. She is 91 and has nurses come in every couple of nights to give her fluids in her own home as her bag is over active but still runs her own home and does her own garden. I can’t imagine a Nanna less world just yet to another thanks to the NHS for keeping her going.
A few years later and I experienced another relapse in my mental health and was admitted again to hospital for four months and more ECT. The team on the ward didn’t just look after me but after my husband and daughter too, they played with her when I wasn’t able and actions like that were as important to any medication in my recovery. The true spirit of the NHS shone.
I have had further relapses of my mental health but thankfully have never been admitted again, daily visits from crisis nurses have ensured that. They even enabled me to have ECT again as an outpatient. Bipolar disorder isn’t easy to manage at all, in fact some days I wonder if I can but I can and I do with the support of the NHS mental health services I keep on keeping on.
Finally it offers me employment, the NHS not only offers employment but it offered a second chance after loosing my first career to mental health stigma. I have never felt so proud as the first day I said “Hello I am your staff nurse today”, nursing in the NHS is tough, it is under resourced and under funded but it is an absolute privilege every single day. It is a great British institution and one I for one am willing to fight for. I implore you not to believe the hateful vitriol shown on the front of some of our national press. The junior doctors are not asking too much, the nurses are not being greedy over pay, the brexit bus has not arrived with bucket loads of money. We are on our knees, tired and in need of resources but we do and will continue to hold our heads up high and uphold Bevan’s ideal for the most amazing health care system in there world. It is free at the point of delivery but it must be accessible at the point of need. Keep fighting folks, its what Bevan asked of us.