Life in the NHS

Life in the NHS – it only hurts when I laugh by Jeff Jacklin

For some reason, I was expecting this presentation to be given by a medical practitioner so I was quite surprised to hear that Jeff’s career of thirty years in the NHS was in I.T albeit at senior level but ‘in the office’ so to speak and not ‘on the shop floor’ at eight different hospitals.

He made a prediction that of those in the audience, a certain number would have had knee replacements or, had worked for the NHS and, needless to say, there was a show of hands for both. It was not surprising however, that there was a greater show of hands by those who worked in the NHS than those who had had knee replacements because the NHS is not only the country’s biggest employer, but it is the 5th biggest employer in the world. Apparently, one in every twenty-three of the UK’s working population works in the NHS; this adds up to an astounding 1.38 million people and, of these, 77% are female and 30% are nurses (all pre pandemic figures).

After we had mentally digested these numbers, Jeff continued to give us a potted history of why the NHS was founded and a chronological framework of its main events. The early years of the twentieth century saw many badly wounded soldiers who returned from WWI receive an uneven patchwork of healthcare; this was exacerbated by even greater numbers of wounded who returned from WWII. Before the creation of the NHS, anyone needing a doctor was generally expected to pay for the privilege but it soon became obvious that this needed to change as it was pushing more and more families into debt, hence the founding of a universal health service.

Despite it seeming a really good idea, there was initially some resistance to it nevertheless, the NHS finally came into existence on July 5th 1948 and it forever changed the way in which people could obtain and pay for their medical care. Spearheaded by Aneurin Bevan, the NHS improved accessibility and distributed what there was more fairly as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians, dentists and hospitals all came together for the first time as one giant UK wide organisation. Funded from general taxation and free from the point of use, it offered cradle to the grave healthcare.

Needless to say, controversy was never far away as financial problems quickly followed; not only did these result in charges being made for dental care, prescriptions and glasses but also Bevan’s resignation. On the plus side though, it was a time when numerous major scientific breakthroughs and discoveries were revolutionising medical treatment to such an extent that diphtheria and polio were actually eradicated as vaccinations became a key part of NHS health prevention work. Over the years, much pioneering medical work was undertaken which included the first hip replacement in 1962; this was followed by the first heart transplant in 1968, the introduction of the organ donor register in 1994 and NHS Direct which was launched in 1998 to provide 24 hour advice over the phone.

Jeff interspersed his presentation of all the hard NHS facts with some serious and funny video clips and comedy sketches so there was a good mix of humour and emotion.

About Nadia Dawson

Retired primary headteacher now working at Lincoln University
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