The NHS is turned 70 on the 5th July 2018 and its time to give credit where credit is due. The NHS in England alone treats more than 1.4 million patients every 24 hours and it is the UK’s largest employer with over 1.5 million staff ranging from midwives, nurses, doctors, porters and researchers from all over the world that effortlessly work to ensure the health and wellbeing of us all. In comparison with the healthcare systems of ten other countries including Australia and USA, the NHS was found to be the most impressive overall by the Commonwealth fund in 2017. People now live on average at least 12 years longer than they did in 1948 and its history is tribute to the success of the NHS with many achievements in science, technology and information which is ever expanding.
In 1948 the NHS was launched in Manchester by the Health Secretary at the time, Aneurin Bevan, providing healthcare services that are free for all at the point of delivery. Since then DNA structure was discovery by Watson and Crick at the University of Cambridge revolutionising the study of disease caused by defective genes, such as trisomy 21 – otherwise known as Down syndrome. Vaccinations where introduced, saving 500,000 children a year from the likes of measles. Even the world’s first test-tube baby, Louise Brown was born using the technique of IVF (In-vitro fertilisation) which is still widely practised today to aid fertility and help couples conceive that are wanting to start a family. These advancements would’ve once seemed impossible. In 1986 the world’s first liver, heart and lung transplant were carried out which lead to the creations of the NHS organ donor card for people wishing to donate their organs. Thanks to organ donation there are more than 50,000 people alive today which may not have been otherwise.
Today the NHS faces a number of challenges; one being the growing and ageing population putting greater pressures on the services than ever before. The NHS aims to address these pressures by making it easier to access your local GP, focusing on improving diagnosis and early treatment as well as making sure the mental health services and accident and emergency care are available on demand. Furthermore, the NHS is more and more relying on digital technologies like apps and artificial intelligence to improve and aid their development and understanding.
All of us have benefited from the NHS whether it be a trip to the doctors for a cough or something more serious involving time in hospital. Our free health care is most often taken for granted even though it is deemed one of the best in the world. None of leading treatments and medications would be possible without the skill, dedication and compassion of the NHS staff. So, here’s a big thank you and to 70 more years of innovation and growth to help us live longer, fuller lives.
-Lucy Rawbone, Science and Technology Editor