By Karen Livingstone, CEO at NHC
It’s hard to miss the publicity around the 75th anniversary of the NHS.
If you’re comfortable navigating Elon Musk’s new rules on twitter there is a dedicated link NHS@75 and an invitation from Chris Ham and Dr Clare Gerada to join in the conversation. There are also opportunities to talk about the future with a Guardian sponsored live streaming where you can join the conversations with a panel of speaker. A brief perusal of Google with the search of NHS at 75 will provide you with numerous other ways to get involved in these celebrations and learnings.
To play my part I thought I’d share my own story as a staff member – it’s a bit different to most as my first job ‘in’ the NHS was as an advisor to the Secretary of State for Health and while that’s not an ideal way to learn about the enormity of how the NHS works it provided me with an understanding of the service from the heart of the Westminster and the political machinery.
Since that first job I have worked in the NHS for over 17 years and have been fortunate to have worked at every level of the service – national, regional, and local. In each role I have seen committed and dedicated staff working tirelessly for their patients and the services they lead. I have seen an enormous commitment to change too – one of the most erroneous comments I often hear is about how the NHS is set in its ways and will be impossible to change.
My most recent role, as CEO at NHC, I have seen more than all my other positions – the vital role of our staff and their relationships with patients. The trust and respect of the public is born out of the interactions our NHS staff have each day. That the NHS is one of the most prized parts of our society is largely due to these personal and professional interactions. I believe firmly that the NHS staff know this but it is out of sense of duty and pride in their work that often they don’t shout enough about the significance of what they do each day.
The NHS’s current staffing crisis is well documented and the Guardian recently reported that more than 170,000 staff left their employment in the NHS. The reasoning behind this exodus is complex. Pay, the pandemic and its associated burnout, the lack of resources and increasing workloads with a sense that the politicians aren’t listening are part of the current union and government dialogues.
Ultimately as an employee in the NHS for over 15 years, a patient, the daughter of older parents who need on-going healthcare and the mother to two sons who will need intermittent access to services I will make sure I hold the politicians to account. I believe we have to to ensure they have no option but to listen and support the NHS staff.
We all have to test their thinking, turn up to the conversations about the NHS. To write the tweets and bring our voices to the forefront. We can’t expect the service to improve if we don’t share our knowledge and our ideas. So I encourage you to take up every opportunity of this 75th anniversary to share your experiences and make sure that every politician and manager in the service understands the reality of your day to day pressures and how these need to be improved for you as a staff member but ultimately because you can then improve the experience for patients.