Column: the NHS' Birthday

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 6th July:

The NHS is arguably our country’s – and the Labour Party’s – greatest ever achievement.

It’s based on a simple belief that no matter who you are, what you do, where you come from or what you can afford, no person here in the UK should go without basic healthcare.

And yesterday, we celebrated our NHS’ 70th birthday.

For seven decades now, our health service has provided care for millions of people, transforming the health of a nation in the aftermath of a devastating war, and becoming the envy of the world.

It’s treated all manner of ailments; from polio to your winter cold.

It’s helped people of all ages; from babies taking their first breaths, to comforting those taking their last.

It’s provided each and every one of us with care, strength and expertise in difficult times.

And it’s something we all should be proud of.

What’s more, it’s the staff working in our hospitals, care homes, ambulances and right across our NHS who we should take this opportunity to say thank you to.

Along with those that have spent their lives working in the NHS in the past – like my mum – they’re the lifeblood of our health service, and whenever I meet them I’m humbled by their skill, professionalism and dedication to helping others.

But our NHS isn’t perfect. And over the last few years devastating cuts to budgets have seen fewer doctors, fewer nurses, fewer beds, longer waiting times, and hard-working staff badly let down in our hospitals.

This year’s winter crisis, for instance, showed just how fragile our most beloved institution can be if it isn’t shown the same level of care and backing it has provided for us for so long.

So let’s take this important moment to remember the 70 years of our NHS, but also look forward and ensure it can continue.

On our NHS’ birthday, I renewed my commitment to defending our universal health service and ensuring it can continue providing vital help and care for those in need for many more years to come.