Today marks the tenth year since my Gran died. Her name was Annie Nicholson, she was born in St Helens, which was a mining town. The day before, 13th August marks the anniversary of my Grandad’s death. He died in 1969 at 54. I never knew him, but I knew of him. He had been a miner since the age of 14. That’s the age my youngest son will be in a few weeks. Hard to imagine – isn’t it. My grandad and my great grandad went down mines from the age of 13 and 14. Thank goodness that their descendants don’t have this same fate. The fear they must have felt going down into a mine as children. A cold, dark and dangerous place. Yes, highly dangerous. My grandad saw his friends die, he had a serious accident himself and the mines resulted in his early death in his fifties.He worked hard, he was a highly intelligent man, but what choices did they have, a working class child or man in 1930s.
Yet what he did believe in, was fighting injustice. He experienced what it was like to be treated by a private mining owner, they literally owned their workers. Health and safety was poor. My grandad became involved in the Union, National Union of Mineworkers, where he played an important role for many decades. He wanted to see change, he wanted to fight the injustice and he wanted to make the world fairer.
And part of this fairer world was having a health service that was accessible to all, free at the point of use. It would be revolutionary. The 1940s was a revolutionary age. It consisted of people like my grandparents,who had worked from ages of 14, down mines, who had seen the injustice. They cried out for a better world. As working class parents in 1930s they had to pay their Doctor, they couldn’t afford this. Sadly due to there not being a National Health Service in 1939, my uncle died at only 18 months, not being able to afford a Doctor, they delayed taking him to hospital, and when he got there, it was too late.
And it’s their lives, their passion, their stories that inspire my life to make the world a better place for all. I carry on their fights against injustice. I don’t want our society to go backwards to a time where people are afraid to take their children to a Doctor due to cost, where health & safety regulations are no longer as important as they should be, where people struggle to eat or heat their homes.
But I fear, that our society is already experiencing similar hardships that my grandparents experienced. The rise of food banks, the creation of far too many zero-contract jobs, rise of insecure and poorly paid employment. Energy bills rise, transport costs.
And the National Health Service is under tremendous stress. It’s virtually in crisis mode and at times in crisis. And it’s where I have a real passion, due to my family history that I have explained above. My grandparents generation fought for our generations to have access to a universal healthcare system, free at the point of use.
We need to do all we can to protect our National Health Service. In Lincolnshire, it’s already experiencing crisis. In Grantham, the A&E is struggling to keep open. Pressures on hospitals in Lincoln and Boston.
The staff work extremely hard, they are dedicated and quite frankly heros of our age. To work in the health service, takes dedication, commitment and love. It’s a vocation, it’s a service. And yet due to the pressures in our National Health Service, the staff are feeling demoralised.
And yes I will get political. Yes, politics created the National Health Service in 1940s ( wonderful politics ) but it’s also causing problems in 21st century with our health service.
In the last Govt. Which was Conservative/Liberal Democrat. A decision, unwise in my opinion, to reform the health service. This was done by Conservative MP Lansley, when he was Secretary of State for Health. He decided to reform the structures of the NHS. This has caused more issues, complicated the NHS and allowed more competition & market forces to enter the NHS. This has had a detrimental effect.
In combination with this, the NHS has become underfunded, savings are being made. Junior contracts. Trusts all over the UK are in severe deficit. Including in Lincolnshire. Then you add in cuts to Local Govt budgets, which cut social care, public health. It all adds up to a big mess. Political decisions. It does bring into question what is driving these political decisions ? Perhaps a dislike for a public, universal healthcare system that my grandparents generation fought so hard to create. Do we forget it’s only a generation since my grandad & his peers fought for the rights that we enjoy today ?
In Lincolnshire, the picture is complicated. Historically it’s been difficult to recruit and retain staff. A Rural County. The NHS in Lincs has tried its best to try to recruit from all over the UK, had gone abroad and more recently to EU countries to recruit staff. But on top of staff shortages, it’s dealing with huge deficit and a increasing elderly population, with complex needs. A road infrastructure that needs investment & improving.
What we need are politicians who truly have ideas and answers to these complex issues that our Health service needs. That feel passionately about a universal healthcare service, that was founded on the hopes & dreams of my grandparents generation – who knew what suffering without a NHS was like. That’s why I write these blogs – we can’t forget what my grandparents went through – their aspirations for the next generation. My promise I make to my grandparents is that I will continue to fight to protect our National Health Service, not just because it makes sense but because it epitomises what is good about our society.