8 July 2018
Have you ever wondered why despite being such a small country, the United Kingdom is regarded as a global leader?
There are many things that may contribute to this fact, but none more important than how we treat people when they are at their lowest point in their lives.
We may have a reputation for our stiff upper lip and resilience, a penchant for tea and cake and there’s no denying our flag-waving prowess when it comes to the pomp and ceremony of a Royal occasion! But there is something that is regarded across the world as distinctly British, that we are known globally for. That is the NHS.
This week the NHS celebrated its 70th birthday. Where other countries like France and United States require insurance premiums or hefty treatment bills, for the past 70 years, the NHS has taken care of all of our families: yours and mine.
Whether it be the birth of a new baby or the treatment and care of something serious, everyone in this great country of ours is treated equally, by a team of extraordinary nurses, doctors and support staff.
When you need it most
We have all had tough times in our family lives. It’s inescapable, it’s inevitable.
The past 12 months have been particularly tough for us as a family, losing three great men in our lives. But what a reminder that time has been of the kindness and unwavering commitment that stands by in the NHS, day after day, night after night.
In a world where sadly, somehow, nurses in particular have been made to feel undervalued, these caregivers have never once compromised their commitment to each and every one of us. I was mesmerised at the commitment of the teams of people who looked after my family. It’s truly humbling to experience and because it was during such a tough time, it matters all the more.
I, myself, am no stranger to the NHS. Being particularly accident prone as a kid, my record in Denbigh Infirmary, where I was born and lived, ran into the pages.
I lost count of the number of tetanus injections I had from animal bites and self-inflicted accidents. One of the funniest, although not at the time, was when I decided to break the record for the fastest I’d ever been on a skateboard.
Anyone who knows Denbigh, will know the infirmary is at the bottom of Park Street. It’s a steep hill with a castle at the top. I decided to see how much speed I could pick up. In doing so, unfortunately went a little out of control at the bottom. To avoid a car, I drove into the infirmary car park where I crashed straight into a stationary ambulance. This sort of thing wasn’t uncommon and actually it was quite an apt place to have an accident.
A remarkable difference
Every time I have been in hospital, the nurses have always picked me up and got me back on my feet. And they do it with such care.
On the other hand, after my first hour on a snowboard in Avoriaz in France, a French skier skidded into me when I was in the queue for the lift and broke my foot.
I was taken to the hospital on the back of one of the “blood wagons” as they are called. Strapped tightly on your back to a sledge, looking up to all the people watching you get taken off the mountain is humiliating. But not as much as what happened in the French hospital.
The French doctor refused to treat me until I had my passport, so I had to hobble up the steps and up the hill to get it. Two hours after returning, passport in hand, the doctor X-rayed my foot and was surprised to see it was broken.
He apologised explaining that, as I wasn’t making song and dance about it, he assumed it wasn’t that bad. Admittedly he was disappointed in himself for treating a patient so badly. That incident could never happen in the UK, not in our NHS, not ever. Whether you have paperwork or not, if you are in pain, in trouble, you will get the best care imaginable.
And all this is in spite of all the pressure that these doctors and nurses are under. The constant need for more funds, demand for upgrades, and challenges in the face of cuts. This type of uncertainty doesn’t make it easy for people to operate at their very best. Yet somehow they do it delivering the highest levels of care for an increasing number of people.
Day in day out, these incredible people are faced with the highest and lowest points of our human existence. Stepping from one bed to another, delivering everything from the greatest of news to impossible news.
The #NHS’s 70th birthday will continue to be celebrated tomorrow by many organisations including @SkyNews from @Ldn_Ambulance. But for today, we would just like to say thank you to each and everyone of you for this very special #NHS70 birthday. 🎂 … ♥️ … NHS. pic.twitter.com/ep2My3UpK4
— NHS England (@NHSEngland) July 5, 2018
Over the past week, as the nation celebrates the anniversary of the NHS, it has been wonderful to read the stories being shared. One caught my eye of a woman who was one of the first people to be treated under the service. She had a hip operation at just one year old in 1948. Now she is a nurse at Royal Bournemouth Hospital. She describes how we are the envy of the world to have our NHS.
The celebrations show just what a treasured institution it is. Yet it is still forever in question, now more so with Brexit. Theresa May may have announced a £20bn funding boost to mark the anniversary but will that be enough? It’s a huge beast to modernise and manage. Huge swathes of the funding gets swept away by the global drug companies. We can only hope to see the £20bn is invested in the right places to have the broadest impact.
It’s frankly impossible to imagine a Britain without the NHS. It’s been there all my life, from the moment I was born. Through every accident, the birth of our amazing kids, the critical operations we have faced, the care and loss of our elders. And, one day, when it is my turn, it’s those same nurses I want consoling my family, when my time comes.
The greatest honour
And meanwhile, one of my greatest honours as a business person is to have the NHS as a customer. To have the opportunity to help save the organisation money whilst improving speed and helping to deliver thousands of critical services, to nurses, doctors, patients and relatives, is why I am in business.
The NHS is the UK’s largest employer, the fifth largest in the world, employing 1.7 million people across the country. It needs all the help it can get and it definitely doesn’t need privatising.
I am particularly excited as we recently invested in HSCN, the NHS’s dedicated network. This investment enables us to help hundreds of partners save the NHS millions. We have slashed the prices of connectivity opening the doors to a whole new supply chain. It is going to shake up the system. It’s a system that’s been dominated by global multinationals who’ve been charging exorbitant fees for very basic services. All that is set to change and you won’t be surprised to hear that we are going to be at the centre of it.