As the NHS prepares to celebrate its 65th birthday on Friday (5 July), a stalwart volunteer has hailed the service as the nation’s most important asset.
Seventy-year-old Beverley Martin, from Derby, said that the excellent free health care available on the NHS was the envy of the world and ensured that treatment was not the preserve of the well off.
But the retired schoolteacher warned that the NHS was being put under great strain by the many people attending hospital when there were several alternatives that should be considered first.
She pointed out that GP surgeries offered on-the-day appointments for emergencies while the NHS 111 service was available 24 hours a day to give advice. GP out-of-hours services were available through the 111 service run locally by Derbyshire Health United, which had recently been rated one of the nation’s best providers of out-of-hours services.
Beverley’s plea for patients to use the NHS responsibly was reinforced by research published by the NHS Choices website. The study found that eight per cent of people attending A&E could have been treated at their local pharmacist for common complaints such as coughs and colds, flu, sore-throats, earache, backache, stomach upsets and cuts and grazes.
Born six years before the NHS began, Beverley contracted whooping cough and bronchitis when less than three weeks old and was lucky to survive in the days before mass vaccination.
She recalled her father being treated in the Derby Royal Infirmary at a time when written permission was required from hospitals for a child under the age of 13 to visit a parent. Therefore, she welcomed the fact that the NHS was now far more accessible to families: something that she felt aided rapid recovery of patients.
Beverley remembered being in the Derby Children’s Hospital for a week after having her adenoids and tonsils removed. She pointed out that modern procedures enabled patients to convalesce more quickly. An abiding memory was of being wheeled into the operating theatre with a chloroform-sprayed cotton mask over her face, something she described as an unpleasant experience.
Beverley said she had received exemplary treatment all over the country and that her mother had also been cared for extremely well.
She said: “Without the dedication and hard work of all NHS staff, the service wouldn’t function as well as it does. Our doctors and nurses are members of a caring profession that deserves respect, as do the staff who run the NHS.”
She was prompted to volunteer with the NHS by a desire to ensure that patients were always treated with the greatest possible dignity. She was chair of the Patient and Public Information
Forum in Derby for five years and has volunteered with local hospitals for 12 years. She has volunteered with the Royal Derby Hospital for the last four years.
Beverley taught biology to A-level for 32 years and volunteered with the NAS/UWT teachers’ union as a college liaison officer.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG represents 57 GP practices and is one of four clinical commissioning groups in the county responsible for the healthcare of people in Derbyshire.
On 5 July 1948, the NHS took control of 480,000 hospital beds in England and Wales. An estimated 125,000 nurses and 5,000 consultants were available to care for hospital patients.
The NHS Act, brought before Parliament in 1946, was created as part of a social welfare policy under Clement Atlee’s Labour government which aimed to provide universal and free benefits to all those in need.
The service was based on recommendations in the 1942 Beveridge report which called for a state welfare system.
The principle of the NHS was to provide a comprehensive service funded by taxation, available to all and free at the time of need.
With continued food rationing, a housing shortage, spiralling tuberculosis death rates and on the back of an exceptionally severe winter, the inception of a welfare state could not have come at a better time for post-war Britain.
In its first year, the NHS cost £248m to run, almost £140m more than had been originally estimated.
Charles Malkin, Communications Officer
Tel: 01246 514971/07450 014496