I have a confession to make! I’m in love…..with the NHS. Yes, I know it’s arguably an inanimate object but it’s one of the best institutions we have in this country…..and possibly in the world! It’s so easy to take organisations for granted and even to complain vociferously about them when things go badly wrong – which they do, dreadfully, for some people – but on the whole I think it is a national treasure and one which we should value much more than we do.
We all came to realise exactly how precious the NHS is during 2020 when Covid struck our shores. Who can forget those wonderful nurses and doctors who put their lives on the line for us, looked shattered after working long, hard days, often going without food and breaks and the shops being almost empty for them to purchase goods at the end of their shifts.
Many of the staff didn’t know which way to turn or how best to treat the myriad number of people needing finite resources during the peak of the crisis when the Government was trying to purchase supplies of PPE and other vital equipment, in competition with the rest of the world, and before the vaccination programme was introduced. But, because of the resilience and dedication of those wonderful people, we got over the worst of the crisis, even though there are now long waiting lists for treatment and people still living in fear.
Not only are the medical staff absolute angels for what they endure – not helped with the current staff shortages – but there are a whole host of administrative, clerical and ancillary staff and numerous associated services without which the NHS couldn’t function. Thousands and thousands of people who you don’t see but know are there. And, not only that, but have you ever thought about where else the money goes into to keep this conglomerate going?
Just off the top of my head I’m thinking of all the many thousands of buildings and their associated running costs; hundreds of thousands of pieces of staff uniform; the millions of drugs used in hospitals and at the thousands of GP’s surgeries throughout the country; every piece of medical equipment and instrument used in hospitals and in the community; the research and development which goes into cures and science; the expenditure involved in running GPs surgeries as well as dental and optical practices and pharmacies; the cost of running the ambulance service; counselling, community and psychiatric provision and the massive amount of other expenditure that goes into running this public service. And much, much more.
But the NHS funding programme isn’t a bottomless pit and I think it is the duty of all of us to value and protect what we have – money definitely doesn’t grow on trees. I know some people argue that the Government don’t put enough into it but, no matter how much extra finding they provide, it will never be enough. With an ever-increasing and ageing population, the demands will continue to rise.
It’s estimated that the cost of running the NHS in England alone is in the region of £212 BILLION for the year 2020/21. Like many public services, there is probably a fair amount of unnecessary spending and wastage in the system and maybe even financial mismanagement to a certain extent, but it’s still a very serious amount of money.
I think there is so much more we could be doing as a nation to protect the NHS and take personal responsibility for our own health. Much of the NHS money goes towards the cost of self-inflicted illnesses caused by smoking, obesity, drugs, alcohol, various addictions, etc. I think this money would be far better spent on diseases which are not self-inflicted. I appreciate that many people resort to these things because of pressures in their lives, poor mental health and loneliness, bad life experiences especially from childhood in many cases and a huge array of other causes.
If more of the NHS resources could be diverted to preventive measures such as early-stage counselling – prevention is better than cure as the saying goes – this would free-up vital money and other resources to improve or eradicate life-threatening illnesses, themselves often being caused by poor lifestyle choices. I believe the NHS already tries its very best to divert people away from addictive behaviour but, again, it’s up to each and everyone of us to do our best to cut back on things where we know it could lead to poor health outcomes.
I like a glass of wine as much as anyone, and I know I eat too much on occasions, but I want to lead a long and healthy life without pain so I try my best to temper it and be sensible most of the time. It’s not always easy but, when I look round and see middle-aged people suffering from physical impairments which might have been caused by activities which could have been avoided, it really does break my heart. We all need to think about the long-term consequences of our actions and especially of the reduced life-span which some of these activities could entail.
The NHS is precious. The resources which go into it are precious. Life itself is very precious. Let’s not abuse any of them by squandering them – it just needs us all to take a bit more responsibility for our own health wherever possible. The NHS is a national treasure – let’s not waste it.