Boards eye view: reflecting on 70 years of the NHS

This year, the NHS will be 70 years old. As we reach this milestone, Mike Parker reflects on all the pioneering work which needs to be celebrated.

As the National Health Service prepares to celebrate its 70th birthday on July 5, it is a time to reflect and celebrate on the advancements in nursing and medicine.

Picture: iStock

The NHS has played a major part in eradicating disease such as diphtheria and polio, and has been at the forefront of pioneering research and clinical procedures, such as carrying out the first liver, heart and lung transplants.

In 1948, when Aneurin Bevan launched the NHS, its core principle was ‘to meet the needs of everyone’, and such pioneering procedures would have simply been a thing of dreams, if contemplated at all.  

What's next?

Perhaps it would be prudent during this time of celebration and reflection, to consider what the next 70 years may hold for the beloved and much treasured health service.

The winter crisis of 2017/18 has been described by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine as the worst ever, with a national shortage of hospital beds, escalating waiting times in emergency departments, and only six of more than 130 hospital trusts managing ambulance to ED handover times in less than 30 minutes.

With a number of hospital trusts declaring internal ‘major incidents’ the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt made the announcement last month to cancel around 50,000 elective operations and outpatient appointments.

Are we failing to meet needs? 

The events of the last four weeks clearly indicate that the NHS is no longer coping with the demands placed upon it and is not ‘meeting the needs of everyone’.

As we consider what the future may look like for the service, shouldn’t we be questioning the sustainability of running a post-war service in the 21st Century? With an ageing population, increasing patient expectations, and advancements in medical science, how much more can the NHS take?

About the author

Mike Parker is senior lecturer in emergency and unscheduled care at the University of York.

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