Sunday Express

Faces of heroism who deserve all of our admiration


of treatment for all whatever their income thanks to the huge infrastruc­ture of the NHS, we have seen remarkable achievemen­ts even in the midst of a crisis few could have dreamed of.

Nightingal­e hospitals sprung up around the country, there has been a huge mobilisati­on to get protective equipment, ventilator­s have been manufactur­ed in large numbers, and Britain is among many teams working to develop a vaccine.

While there have inevitably been problems, there have been remarkable successes. Not least is the fact that at no point have hospitals in the UK been overwhelme­d and, while every life lost is a tragedy, the 44,198 people killed is far lower than in 1919 with, arguably, an even more dangerous virus. Unlike 100 years ago, everyone who needed treatment has been treated and nobody has died through lack of effort to save their lives.

Perhaps the most important aspect of responding to coronaviru­s is that the NHS has been able to mobilise a veritable medical army – 1.5 million doctors, nurses and other staff – to fight it.

Just like having a national army, navy and air force prepares you for the crisis of war, so it has proven to be true for a pandemic. And just like the military in past conflicts, medics have given their lives to the cause.

So when we applaud let us think on the hundreds who have died as a result of catching coronaviru­s from all around the UK, including Paul Kabasele, an eye specialist doctor from Moorfields Hospital in

London; 80-year-old Mohinder Singh Dhatt from Slough, Britain’s longest serving GP; Liz Spooner who served as a nurse at Singleton in Wales for 41 years; Safaa Alam, a midwife from Birmingham; Phil Rennie, an ambulance care assistant from Oldham; Robert Black, a Scottish paramedic from Glasgow; and Tariq Shafi, a cancer specialist consultant from Kent. There are so many more on the roll of honour.

Those who have battled through coronaviru­s on ventilator­s and in hospitals will remember, as Boris Johnson did, the nurses and doctors who tended them, such as Jenny Mcgee and Luis Pitarma, the two nurses the Prime Minister singled out for helping to save his life.

But while it is a spectacula­r chapter in the history of the NHS, coronaviru­s is just a small part of a remarkable story.

It is one created out of political unity in the 1940s as war raged across the world and Winston Churchill’s Conservati­ve-led national coalition set about building for the future.

One of the regular political lies trotted out by Labour is that the NHS is not safe in the Conservati­ves’ hands and they never wanted it in the first place. In fact the first announceme­nt in 1944 that there would be a national health service free at the point of use came from the Conservati­vce health minister Sir Henry Willink.

Churchill himself was a supporter of the creation of the NHS as prime minister, noting: “The discoverie­s of healing science must be the inheritanc­e of all: that is clear. Disease must be attacked whether it occurs in the poorest or the richest man or woman, simply on the ground that it is the enemy: and it must be attacked in the same way that the fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humble cottage as readily as it will give it to the most important mansion.”

The cross-party report that laid the foundation for the NHS was chaired by a Liberal, Sir William Beveridge, and in the end the legislatio­n was pushed through – after some resistance from the British Medical Associatio­n – by Labour’s Aneurin Bevan.

But it was a Tory, Jeremy Hunt, who just in recent years achieved the biggest financial boost for the NHS in its history.

This cross-party support reflects how dear the NHS is to the British and how important it is to the welfare of the nation.

Is it perfect? No. Does it need reform? Probably. But the principles and ethos of this vital service remain as true as they were when a 13-year-old girl called Sylvia Beckingham was admitted to a Manchester hospital with a liver condition in 1948 and became the first patient of the NHS.

Many milestones have been passed in those 72 years with more than 1.5 million a year being treated in hospitals, vaccinatio­ns to end previously killer diseases such as diphtheria, and incredible advances in treatments and medicines particular­ly for cancer – and much more.

But the greatest testament to the NHS is that in 1948, when it was launched, the life expectancy of a man in the UK was 66 and a woman 70. Today it is 79 for a man and 83 for a woman.

So when we applaud tonight, clap your hands for the coronaviru­s effort but also for the countless loved ones whose lives have been saved and for the many extra years of life we and our families have been given by this remarkable national service.

‘The principles and ethos remain true’

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 ??  ?? THEY GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR US: Top from left, midwife Safaa Alam, GP Dr Mohinder Singh Dhatt and paramedic Robert Black. Bottom, cancer specialist Dr Tariq Shafi, nurse Liz Spooner and care assistant Phil Rennie
THEY GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR US: Top from left, midwife Safaa Alam, GP Dr Mohinder Singh Dhatt and paramedic Robert Black. Bottom, cancer specialist Dr Tariq Shafi, nurse Liz Spooner and care assistant Phil Rennie
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