The NHS at 70 - what it means to our Chief Executive, Melanie Walker

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in #ProudofDPT, News on 3rd July, 2018

"This week sees the 70th birthday of the NHS.  Birthdays are always a good time to celebrate and reflect. 

Last week, I sat with my Mum in hospital whilst she waited for some test results and she recounted a memory of her parents putting money in a jar every week in case they needed the doctor. 

"The jar was kept on the mantelpiece so that everyone in the family knew where it was and there was no panic for money in an emergency.  My Mum’s family were fortunate, they were not wealthy, but my Grandad earned enough to be able to “put some by” for the doctor.  My Mum also talked about the relief she felt some years later when her father was very ill - the relief of knowing care would not be limited by their ability to pay.  She also reminisced about how her Grandmother, who had dementia, had no care at all above and beyond what the family was able to provide.

"The NHS was founded with the principle of free care for all from the cradle to the grave – and this remains as important and vital now as it was back in 1948.

"Working for the NHS instils a true sense of pride and shared endeavour that I rarely see in other organisations.  When I meet people – whether at work or socially – I am proud of our organisation, proud of the way we support people and, most of all, proud to be part of the NHS.  It has absolutely nothing to do with being a Chief Executive.  I felt the same when I qualified as a nurse (many, many years ago!) and I have felt the same in every position that I have held.  Those of us who love and believe in the NHS have it running through us like the proverbial stick of rock.  We try to forgive its faults, we work hard to overcome its problems, and we do the best we can with the resources we have at our disposal.  Whilst none of us have to put money in a jar, we know that gaps in services remain.

"Dwarfing all of the challenges faced by the NHS is the fantastic work that is done by its staff every single day.  We, and people like us, change people’s lives every day – and that is a very humbling thing to be part of.  I’m sure that many of you, like me, have seen, heard and read some of the NHS 70 stories in the media over recent weeks.  Stories about the advances the NHS has made in the last seven decades, the lives it has saved and the pioneering work it has done and continues to do.  We are all part of an organisation that is the envy of many, and we should never forget it.

"Enjoy the celebrations this week.  We have supported many of our frontline teams to organise their own local celebrations and we will be having a get together and a cream tea on the front lawn at Wonford House on Thursday – which is the official birthday. 

"In the midst of the celebrations maybe take a moment of your own to reflect on how privileged we are to work for the NHS which, aged 70, is still doing great things, still breaking new ground, still changing people’s lives and still an organisation of which we can all be proud.  Long may it continue."