On this day in 1948 the National Health Service (NHS) was launched. . The NHS was created with the ideal that health care should be available to everyone, free at point of delivery, regardless of their wealth. The NHS was based on the 3 core principles;
- That it meets the needs of everyone,
- That it be free at the point of delivery,
- That it is based on clinical need, not ability to pay.
(Image taken from The Socialist Health Association)
70 years on, it is no secret that the demand on the NHS has increased. Let’s compare;
The NHS spending was £437 Million (15 billion at today’s prices)
The NHS spending is £125 BILLION
Life expectancy was 65.5 (M) 70.1 (F)
There were 93,591 nurses employed by the NHS
Life expectancy is 76.4 (M) 83.1 (F)
There are 287,100 full-time equivalent nurses employed by the NHS
1948 The NHS was created;
1950 Smoking was linked to cancer;
1954 First kidney transplant;
1961 Contraceptive pill introduced;
1978 First test tube baby;
1982 Last UK polio case;
1988 Breast screening programme introduced;
2000 Walk-in centres were introduced;
2002 Improves access to psychological therapies (IAPT) was introduced
2007 National smoking ban;
2009 NHS health checks introduced.
(Image taken from NHS England Resources)
The health of the population taking demand on the NHS has changed significantly since its birth. In 1948 polio, measles and whooping cough were just some of the biggest concerns. These diseases are almost unheard of now due to vaccinations. If you presented at hospital then, it would have most likely been for a fracture or injury.
Today, lifestyle conditions are causing the biggest strain on the NHS. Respiratory illnesses caused by smoking, Heart disease caused by diet, Liver disease caused by alcohol use.
These diseases can be preventable, and the NHS is shaped by the need of this. This is reflected in the ‘NHS 5 Year Forward’ with prevention as the number one priority. Encouraging populations to lead healthier lifestyles to reduce the likelihood of them becoming ill. Derek Wanless author of ‘Securing Good Health For The Whole Of The Population’ warned that if prevention isn’t taken seriously, the country will be faced with a sharply rising burden of avoidable illness. Prevention will ensure the NHS can keep working in the future and when patients need the NHS they will have better control over their own care.
So… The NHS needs people to take responsibility for their own health & wellbeing.
Ironically enough, you only need to look to the NHS to find out…
Stop smoking. Smoking is considered the single biggest lifestyle cause of cancer, as well as one of the main causes of coronary heart disease.
Drink less alcohol.
Get fit. Exercise helps to maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). Physical activity has been proven to be improve both physical and mental wellbeing. The general population is recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
Eat well. This can include eating more fibre, cutting down on saturated fat, eating five portions of fruit/vegetables a day, eating fish and lowering your salt intake. Guidance for a healthy balanced diet can be found from the Eat Well Plate.
Get educated on health. Read the food label, research the Eat Well Plate, use resources available to you from this blog or go directly to the NHS website. This can give you guidance of tips & tricks of how to stay healthy, and when medical intervention is necessary.
Yes, not all illnesses are preventable and illness is something we will all face at some point in our lives. However, the quality of care from the NHS isn’t just down to health workers, politicians or public health teams. It is down to every single one of us. Take a moment and think, am I doing enough to protect our NHS?
If you enjoyed reading this you can read my post ‘8 ways we can take care of our own health & wellbeing’.