Making time to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS is so important. Throughout my life my family and I have had the good fortune to benefit from the services that the NHS provides largely without the fear of wondering how we would pay for them. From the maternity care, vaccinations and general health care support provided to my children, to the care and devotion staff provided to my grandparents during their final years of life I have seen the NHS at its best.
During my 25 years working for the service I have also witnessed many of the challenges the service faces and the constant state of evolution the NHS has been going through. Whilst I was on the NHS training programme I worked for a combined community and mental health trust. During this time I spent a week working at one of the old mental health institutions on Dartmoor and observed the limitations of an approach to care where individuals were incarcerated, often miles from their home and their network of family and friends. The introduction of more community based services and smaller more personalised units, whilst not without its challenges, highlighted the importance of social connections for the health and wellbeing of individuals.
In my time working in the acute sector and specifically IT Services I witnessed the challenges that operating on the interface between public and private sector organisations can bring. During this time the National Programme for IT brought a strong vision for how NHS IT services could be revolutionised combined with a significant investment of funds. Unfortunately the contracts that were then placed and the different motivations of the public and private sectors meant that we were unable to maximise the opportunity of this investment and potentially we increased some of the technical and behavioural barriers to change. Only now are we beginning to see some of the progress that was promised over a decade ago.
Last year I visited Ghana for a week as part of a community education project supporting children. During this time my eyes were opened to the fear that ill health can bring to those who do not have the resources to access services and the impact this can have on individuals and their families. Having grown up with the NHS it made me realise how much I took for granted the services that are available to us and how important it is that we sustain them for future generations.
I believe the NHS70 celebrations are a great opportunity for us to reflect on what was created back in 1948 and the evolution and progress that has occurred since then. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the role SCW can play in helping the service adapt to the challenges of our world today, with an aging population, technological advances, individual lifestyles, financial and workforce constraints and the expectations of the population. There are some difficult choices to be made, but SCW can play an important role in helping health and care systems develop and deliver a sustainable vision for the future built on the foundations of integration with the local communities we serve.
I hope that over the two days of the cycle ride we will have an opportunity to meet with colleagues from across SCW and spend a few minutes reflecting on the important role the NHS plays in all our lives. I also hope that everyone who joins us for a bit of the ride enjoys the experience.