Today marks the NHS’s 75th anniversary. Although we are privileged in the UK to have access to universal healthcare, its future is uncertain. To support good health and wellbeing we need a healthy NHS.
The passing of the 1946 National Health Service Act was a transformative moment in British history. Despite opposition in parliament, from the press and even among the medical profession at the time, the NHS was launched on July 5th 1948. Its founder, Aneurin Bevan, built the NHS on the principle of providing universal healthcare, free at the point of use, as a right. It was quickly embraced by the British public and has since become a source of national pride. Within ten years, the Office of National Statistics reported that premature deaths for 15-44 year-olds had halved and for those aged 1-14 had fallen by more than 60%.
Over the years, huge progress has been seen in treatments and outcomes for child, teenage and young adult cancer patients. The young people who come to Flynne’s Barn speak passionately about the commitment, professionalism and humanity of the NHS staff who care for them. Of course, there is progress to be made in treatments and in areas such as earlier diagnosis, better understanding of child and TYA cancers, pathways between child/teenage and adult service, late effects, and the psychosocial impacts of serious illness at young ages. Nonetheless, we must remember the value of a national health service working in hand with a vibrant third sector. Part of our privilege at Flynne’s Barn is to work alongside colleagues from the NHS and organisations such as Teenage Cancer Trust in welcoming young people on residentials in Cumbria.
However, there are also significant threats to both the founding principles and the effectiveness of the NHS, as chronic underfunding places impossible pressures on staff and delivery. A poll last week by Ipsos and The Health Foundation revealed contrasting findings: the majority of the public continue to see the NHS as their greatest source of national pride but also fear for the survival of its principles of universality and public provision. Overwhelming majorities support a raise in funding (80%) and the continuation of funding through taxation (74%). Polling also demonstrates the public’s sustained support for NHS workers’ industrial action over pay.
On this 75th anniversary, Flynne’s Barn wishes to acknowledge the work carried out day and night by colleagues in the NHS, their care for young people with cancer, and the enormous challenges they faced during the pandemic and continue to face in current times. We stand committed to the continuation of the remarkable vision that brought the NHS into being, and to the protection of its principles of equal access to healthcare as a human right.
Written by Robin Ewart-Biggs, our head of counselling and family support.