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NHS@70: Party time at Great Ormond Street

Conservative Friends of the NHS celebrates birthday with Londoners on the streets … writes Soumik Saha. The forum chose the streets to celebrate the birthday of the institution which touches the lives of every breathing soul in the UK

On a busy Monday morning, office goers and other pedestrians on the Great Ormond Street  were a bit overwhelmed seeing a birthday party happening on the footpath in front of the  Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. However, as the birthday carol was sung, everything became clear. They knew who was being celebrated, as they all knew the ‘birthday-baby’ personally.

The 73rd birthday of the beloved institution of this country was being celebrated by a group of doctors, nurses, paramedics, patients, and caregivers– the NHS. The Conservative Friends of the NHS chose the streets to celebrate the birthday of the institution which touches the lives of every breathing soul in the UK.

Conservative Friends of the NHS celebrates birthday with Londoners on the streets

Keya Prasad, the Secretary of the organisation, said: “The location for the birthday party seems appropriate as it is the NHS, which is the umbrella over us all. The NHS is everywhere in this nation. We also got a child coming out of the hospital to cut the cake. Everybody is a  part of the NHS.”

It has been one of the most challenging years for the NHS. The hospitals have cared for around  400,000 seriously ill COVID-19 patients, including more than 100,000 admitted in January 2021.

Rachel Sharp, Senior Lecturer at Brunel University London, said: “Our National Health Service has been looking after us for 73 years now, and I have always been so grateful that we have it. But never more so than now. The pandemic has shown everyone how essential and hard[1]working our beloved NHS is. It has been so tough on them, and they deserve every accolade and more.”

The UK being the first country to start vaccination against Covid19, NHS has rolled out its biggest vaccination programme in health service history; the fastest in Europe and perhaps the most precise in the world during the last seven months.

About 45.4 million people in this country have had their first dose of vaccine, which comprises 86% of the adult population. 34 million have had both doses done by now.

Conservative Friends of the NHS celebrates birthday with Londoners on the streets

Nivedita Bhushan, a photographer from India living in London, said: “I am overwhelmed by the way the NHS handled the vaccination process. While my siblings and even my parents, had to toil for an appointment to get their vaccines in India, I was jabbed here without any hassle, and that too for free. My parents were so unsure about their second dose, as there was a crisis of vaccines in India in April and May. Here, we are getting both our appointments together along with regular follow-ups.”

The NHS touches the lives not only of its citizens but of people living in the UK from across the globe.

Lilia Lolenko, a university student from Ukraine, living in London, said: “I feel safe in this country due to the NHS. I know that if I need medical help, they are there to take care of me. The fact that I do not have to pay for my medical expenses or any kind of insurance, gives me peace.”

The journey during the pandemic, however, has not been free of complaints. The NHS faced various challenges from the shortage of medical staff, to scarcity of funds. There have been rampant complaints about disruptions in adult care, basic services been cut down, hospital beds being blocked, and so on.

Dr. Ashraf Chohan, Chairperson of the Conservative Friends of the NHS, however, prefers to see the glass to be half full. He said: “People complain about not getting appointments on time, and some also complain about not getting proper treatment. There have been discrimination complaints as well. However, the percentage of such complaints is quite low as compared to the mammoth number of people the NHS serves. Providing free medical care to the whole nation is a gigantic task, something unique to this country. I strongly believe that people with any kind of medical issues can rely on the NHS, and this institution is the basis of this country’s happiness.”

With the vaccine roll-outs getting to their mark, the NHS now plans to amend and fix spots of crisis that it has been suffering from. On the occasion of its 73rd birthday, an open letter written by Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May, NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis, and Suzanne Rastrick, the NHS’s Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, was published urging young people to join the NHS.

Conservative Friends of the NHS celebrates birthday with Londoners on the streets

The letter read: “As the NHS marks its 73rd birthday, we are asking young people wondering what path to take, and anyone thinking about a career change, to consider joining us. There are more than 350 different roles on offer and whichever one you pick – while we cannot promise it will always be easy – it will be one of the most rewarding decisions you ever make. So, as we look back with pride on 73 years after the toughest time in our history, and forward to the future, we urge you to consider joining the biggest care team in the world. Please search NHS Careers online today.”

More than 50% of NHS staff today, belong to ethnic minority groups from Asia, Africa, Europe,  Latin America. According to Dr. Chohan, it is this diversity the makes the institution unique and successful.

Manish Tiwari, an expert on the diaspora economy, said: “NHS has always thrived on the global talent pool and doctors and nurses from the Commonwealth have been part of it since  the very beginning. It could have been equally apt if it was called NHS by Commonwealth Health Workers, and of late even recruits from Eastern Europe have helped it bridge staff shortage. It’s a wonderful institution that manages to do good for all and make Britain a country with high standards of health care. This sets up a healthy exchange of medical know[1]how across the Commonwealth and larger world and that’s the bigger story of NHS.”

During the most adverse times since the Second World War, the institution has shown extraordinary teamwork, not just across the NHS but involving hundreds of thousands of volunteers, millions of carers, key workers.

Alessandro Carrara, a university student from West London said: “I have to give a lot of praise to the work the NHS has been doing during this very difficult time. The system needs to be supported and protected.”

The institution was awarded the George Cross by Her Majesty the Queen, on its birthday. It was an “unprecedented” honour, bestowed collectively for only the third time in history.

Welcoming the honour, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Out of those dark times have come the best of what it means to be a carer and a health professional.