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Tolga Akmen/PA Wire
UK News

NHS at 70: 3 Christians share their views on the NHS today

by Cara Bentley

The post-war Labour government urged everyone through short cinema films and posters to sign up for a doctor by 5th July 1948 with Trafford General Hospital near Manchester being the first in the world to offer free healthcare to all.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham recalled on Thursday that the health secretary who founded it, Anuerin Bevan, considered the NHS a worthy cause, saying: "Nye Bevan said, about his NHS, it's a real piece of Christianity".

Burnham added: "I think what he meant by that was, it recognises that people are more important than profits, that care is more important than competition, that there is a better way of doing things as a society."

During the service at Westminster Abbey, Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England told the congregation the nation should give thanks to the "extraordinary" staff of the NHS, many of whom have shown "bravery at times of exceptional challenge."

With the advances in technology, the growth in services but also the strain on those services, the NHS today is quite a different world to that of post-war consensus Britain. 

Ella Kim, a junior doctor on the Christian Medical Fellowship's junior doctors' committee, told Premier's Inspirational Breakfast why she decided to become a doctor: "I thought about perhaps going to Bible college or becoming a missionary to use my life to serve Jesus and at that time I was thinking, 'how best can I serve him?'

"My parents actually mentioned, it's good to be a missionary or go to Bible college but it's actually it's really useful to have a skill to serve wherever you go and I really enjoyed science - I found the human body absolutely fascinating when I was studying it in school. I wanted to do something that was quite practical, I knew I wanted to be meeting with people everyday."

She explained how being a Christian has played a role in her career so far: "My faith has encouraged me in so many ways in my job. Firstly, as I mentioned, I find the human body absolutely fascinating and sometimes I get taken aback when I'm examining someone I think 'Wow, God has created this, God has designed this intricate body with all these mechanisms working together.' So, firstly, it reminds me how good and how amazing God is. Also, being able to work with lots of different people from different backgrounds and different walks of life, I'm able to see just the variety of people God has created. 

"But also in the difficult times when work is hard, when hours are long, when we feel under appreciated those times it's good to remember that God is still good, God is still in control and wherever He's put us we can be serving him."

How have opinions of the NHS changed in 70 years? Listen to Cara Bentley's report here:

In a generation where the NHS is struggling with funding, trusts are merging leaving reduced resources and increased patient demand, do those who've always grown-up with the NHS feel despondent?

Dr Martin Lupton, service lead for Obstetrics as well as Deputy Director of Education and Head of Year 5 at Imperial College Medical School told Premier's Inspirational Breakfast how his students view the NHS today: "I think most of them think that the NHS, as a dream, is a wonderful and worthwhile thing. In fact, I think almost all of our students are committed at a very early stage to give themselves to this organisation and make it all it can be. Having said that, I think they are also acutely aware of the difficulties that face the NHS and the complexity and struggle of being a doctor in a system which doesn't always work as well as it might."

He added though that sometimes it's easy to forget how fortunate the UK is: "I think one of the things our students learn as they travel across the world and work in countries with very little, is quite what an astonishing thing the NHS is. So, if you've ever worked in a place where healthcare is not available to you simply as you walk through that door, you realise pretty quickly that the NHS is fairly miraculous...because we have no experience of not having it we lose sense of quite what an incredibly important organisation it is to our community and keeping it all together and making it function."

Speaking to Premier's Inspirational Breakfast, Steve Fouch from the Christian Medical Fellowship explained how his faith had helped him as a community nurse: "You go into every situation with prayer for starters because you really don't know what you're going to be facing and dealing with. And real prayer that you will know how to respond in that situation - there is a real reliance on God I think as you go into any clerical situation as a Christian. 

"There's a sense that you're never on you're own and I think that's so important. The other thing is that prayer at the start of every day was for 'God, help me to be your hands and your feet in this situation, help me to be bringing you into every meeting, every encounter with every patient so that I can be a blessing to them and show something of your love'".

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