Dear NHS…thank you.

Early last week, I started to feel unwell. At first I ignored it, put it down to stress but as the week went on, things started to  feel worse. 

On Thursday morning as I was getting ready for work, I suddenly realised I couldn’t breathe very well and my heart rate shot up. Trying not to panic, I drove myself to a walk-in clinic where they discovered my heart rate was 120bpm and my blood pressure was a rather unhelpful 203/100.  They did an ECG and sent me home, telling me to make an urgent appointment with my doctor.  

Over the next 24 hours, things got worse and on Thursday night, I ended up in the back of an ambulance on my way to hospital.  Turns out that bizarrely, without any hint of a cough or cold, I’d picked up a lung infection and the bug was causing my heart rate and BP to do silly things. 

The following night at home, my breathing became laboured and so once again the faithful paramedics came out – a rapid response vehicle and am ambulance were at the door within about 11 minutes.  I can’t even begin to describe how brilliant, caring, kind and professional they were.  They warned it could be a long wait at A&E on a Friday night (A&E has a reputation for being the ‘drunk tank’ on weekends) so instead drove me to a 24 hour GP to get treatment.  

I’m home now, dozed up on antibiotics but on the mend, and thinking how overwhelmingly blessed I am to live in a country that has a system just like this. 

From what I can see, about one sixth of my taxes each year go to fund the extraordinary NHS, but it’s not just the service, it’s the thousands (millions?) of staff who’ve dedicated their lives to helping other people.  

At every point, I was treated kindly, with compassion and had a full array of tests.  The bottom line is, I was sick and they wanted to find out what was wrong.   With the stress of being ill, it would have been a million times worse if I’d been worrying about how I was going to pay for it.

On various travels around the world, I’ve seen how healthcare works (and doesn’t work) in other countries.  If you’re born poor in a developing world country (and get sick), you’re pretty much snookered.  You either have to walk miles to a charity-funded clinic (imagine doing that with a raging fever or a badly injured limb) or hope for the best from homeopathic cures.   

Even in the developed world, like the US, for example, health care costs individuals a huge amount of money.  And that’s if you can even afford the insurance.  Even if you’re working and paying your premiums, sometimes the deductibles are so high (to keep the monthly fees down) that a simple trip to A&E with a broken limb could end up costing you hundreds.

This isn’t to criticise other health care systems. I don’t understand enough of the politics to even go there. But what I have seen makes me overwhelmingly grateful for what we have here in the UK.

I normally blog about things which are a bit more spiritual, but today I’m feeling incredibly thankful for a NHS which provides round the clock care. And also for all the dedicated doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff who pull all-nighters and work weekends to look after sick people.

I have so very much to be thankful for.  

The UK has so very much to be thankful for.

It’s a vital, massively important public service, propped up by some utterly brilliant people.   It’s under a lot of pressure, but let’s do what we can to show that we care, that we want it, that we will fight for it.

If you work in the NHS (in any way), thank you for being there.  

If you’ve ever had care from the NHS, why not join the thousands of people online who are tweeting their stories at @nhsmillion and #merryxmasNHS

Thank you to the massively important National Health Service and all the people who keep it going.  I don’t know what we’d do without it.