About eight miles from where I was born in South Wales is a small town called Tredegar. The iron works have gone as have the mines, but its history has left a lasting legacy to the British nation: Tredegar was the birthplace of the National Health Service.
Local boy Aneurin Bevan used the Miners Hospital as the blueprint for the new health service. Miners and their families paid a regular amount into the coffers of the hospital regardless of whether they used it or not. It was both a safety net and a community asset.
Given the looming further strikes of the Junior Doctors, it is rather ironic that the British Medical Association tried to stop the formation of the health service. Bevan’s compromise to them was that they would be able to continue in private practice as well as being paid by the State for their services.
The health service is the jewel of our national crown. Still largely free at the point-of-need there is no doubt that for critical illness it is without peer. Beware the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership though which could see the arrival of large American health carers with the ability to sue national Governments.
As we age as a society the call upon the service can only grow and there is then the regrettable but inevitable restrictions of service and hard choices have to be made.
Hospitals are complex organisations and much of the day-to-day care is undertaken by an army of nurses. Nor should we forget those in the support and auxiliary services who administer and manage.
Of course things go wrong. Who can forget the scandal of North Staffs? And my own family’s recent experience has shown the service is much less good at dealing with those who have chronic illness.
Since the first patient, 13 year-old Sheila Diggory was treated on 5th July 1948, millions have benefited from that vision of the people of Tredegar, a corporate belief that the health of the nation is the concern of all.