(Title Image: The Times)
As you might have noticed, this week marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the National Health Service.
Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth) gave a history lesson. The NHS and Aneurin Bevan were inspired by the Tredegar Medical Aid Society – individuals taking collective action for the common good in the midst of inadequate health care. It was an uphill battle to establish the NHS, but it eventually was with three core principles – that it’s free at the point of use, paid for from taxes and everyone is eligible.
He added that it was easy to take the NHS for granted, but everyone has benefited from it – particularly from the eradication of previously killer diseases and advances in medical science. The challenges now are different, with 20 million patient contacts and £9billion spent in every year in Wales alone.
The NHS can’t continue as it is and needs well-considered reforms and compromises, but the core values remain – no market interference, policies like free prescriptions and capping social care costs.
Shadow Health Secretary, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W & S. Pembs.), heaped praise on health programmes which have seen the eradication or near eradication of polio and diphtheria, introduced organ transplants and IVF and the likes of HPV vaccines. The NHS is “always there when the chips are down”, but there was a greater need to prevent disease, support over-stressed staff and improve public accountability.
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) paid tribute to NHS staff who have “made the NHS what it is”. It was also a time for reflection and gratitude that the service has lasted as long as it has done. Even though politicians often play political football with health, Rhun was sure everyone across the political spectrum wants the Welsh NHS to perform as well as it can and that means holding the Welsh Government to account. He made no apologies for asking tough questions on NHS failings.
Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West) said that as a breast cancer survivor, without the NHS she would’ve died. Average life expectancies have increased from 65 in 1948 to mid-80s today, with many children born today expected to live into their 100s. The Welsh Government’s long-term plans were going in the right direction, but it has to be delivered on the ground.
Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) was proud to have worked in the NHS for 38 years as a GP. It would nowadays be unthinkable for the cost of healthcare leading to people having to sell their home or having to save money to pay for an operation – yet that’s currently the situation for social care. The same “free at the point of use” principle should be extended there.
There were several tributes to former Glyncorrwg GP, Julian Tudor Hart, who died last Sunday at the age of 91. He was said by many contributors to have been a big influence on them. He carried out some of the first research linking inequality to poor health and was the first GP to routinely monitor patients’ blood pressure – leading to a 30% drop in high blood pressure complications.