Earlier this month seventy years of the NHS was celebrated at Westminster Abbey. The post-war Labour government urged everyone to sign up for a doctor by July 5, 1948 with Trafford General Hospital near Manchester being the first in the world to offer free healthcare to all.
The health secretary who founded it, Bevan, considered the NHS a worthy cause, saying, ‘it’s a real piece of Christianity’.
It recognised that people are more important than profits, that care is more important than competition and that there is a better way of doing things in society.
During the service the chief executive of NHS England told the congregation the nation should give thanks to the ‘extraordinary’ staff of the NHS, many of whom have shown ‘bravery at times of exceptional challenge’. People of different faiths and none have given their lives in the service of others. Most of us will appreciate the service and care given to us and to our families in our time of deepest need. They are our heroes.
The advances in technology and expertise as well as the growth in demand have often put a strain on those services. Yet, it’s easy to forget how fortunate we are in Britain. Many countries do not have this level of care. If you’ve ever worked in a place where healthcare is not available, you realise pretty quickly that the NHS is fairly miraculous. Many people have no experience of not having it and so we lose sense of quite what an incredibly important organisation it is in our society.
One of the commissions of Jesus was to heal the sick and to care for those in need. He came to give relief to the suffering and poor in his day and we follow his example as we care for our communities today.