Milli Matthews - The NHS: From the cradle to the grave

Milli is 24, a languages graduate interested in politics, the local community, and all things food.

Try as I might, I cannot find it in me to truly criticise the National Health Service. Consequently, if you were looking for objectivity, the search continues. However, that is not to say that it is completely flawless, but in general it is a source of national pride. You only have to look at our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland and their two-tier healthcare system, where a visit to Accident and Emergency will set you back somewhere in the region of £70-80 (depending on the exchange rate). As someone who had lived in the UK from birth and decamped there for University, this was a rather unpleasant surprise. Of course, there are certain individuals who would argue that by charging for healthcare it might serve as a deterrent from overuse and abuse. Yet this would go against the founding principles of the NHS – ‘to make health care available to all based on need rather than the ability to pay’. Admittedly this appeals to my socialist leanings but quite simply ‘access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality’ is a basic human right.

The NHS has been in the news an awful lot in recent months, mainly with regards to the junior doctors’ going on strike. At the root of their anguish are the new proposals put forward by the government to their contracts. Again, I cannot claim objectivity but these proposals do appear to be a bridge too far. Over Christmas a family friend, who is in her first year of a degree in Medicine, was explaining the process of qualifying as a doctor. And let me tell you it sounds like much more hard work than Casualty and Holby City had led me to believe and initially with little remuneration. On a more serious note, it has also had its fair share of preventable tragedies, for example, the case of William Mead, whose blood poisoning was misdiagnosed by GPs and call handlers for NHS 111.

Equally alarming are statistics on mental health, in particular a sudden rise in the numbers of mental health patients dying unexpectedly whilst in NHS care. From personal experience, I can appreciate that this is one area with significant room for improvement. Whilst I felt my GP was sympathetic and proactive in seeking appropriate treatment, there were limits in what could be offered. I was fortunate in the sense that I was not placed on a long waiting list for counselling sessions but on the other hand, I was only offered a certain number of them. After that, you may have to go private, which is not an option for everyone.

I realise that the NHS is not all that it can be but I am especially thankful because without them I would quite literally not be here today. My mother required an emergency caesarean and upon arrival into the world I was lifeless with a ridiculously low APGAR score, but thankfully the doctors didn’t give up on me and soon enough I was breathing normally.