Happy Birthday NHS

Posted: July 5, 2018 in Guest Blogs, Other Writing by AJ Kirby

NHS D Blog

You probably know, but it’s the big seven-oh for the NHS today. I wrote a blog, which has been published to the NHS Digital website. Please see below for full content:

“My parents were up to stay last night to babysit for the kids while my partner and I went out for a meal and to the cinema. We watched Jurassic World. It was pretty silly, and to be honest I spent most of the time thinking that I’d rather be sitting in our back garden, enjoying the warm evening with a glass of wine. As soon as the film finished, we drive home, threw open the patio doors, and did exactly that. The four of us from two generations (the third generation were – Glory be! – in bed, or so we thought) sat out as the sun went down, and eventually conversation turned to the NHS. Last night was the eve of the NHS’s 70th birthday, after all.

My Dad’s a Baby-Boomer, retired now, and living the good life. Though my Dad and I are close – bonded by our love of the same football team – and at times it seems as though we aren’t a generation apart (usually when we share the same view of the manager; of what our best player needs to do so he can turn it on in very game not just when he has a new haircut and wants the cameras to get a good look at it) there are times when the years between us are more obvious. And I’m not just talking about technology, and Dad’s luddite tendencies here.

Dad was born not long after the end of the Second World War, in 1947, to parents Doris and George. George was a builder. Doris worked in a soap factory. George had to lay a lot of bricks and Doris had to make a lot of soap in the wake of the arrival of their bouncing baby boy. Indeed, they were still paying for that baby five years later: a special payment plan had been set up by the hospital to cover the fees. George, who was a Yorkshireman and fiercely stereotypical in his tight-fistedness, was probably kicking himself until the day he eventually died on account of the fact that if they’d only waited another year, they could have had little Raymond George for free, on the new National Health Service.

On Christmas Day 2013, my girlfriend Heidi gave birth to our own son, Jesus… No, I’m kidding, Leon George. He was named, in part, for the grandfather he never met (and also for a crossword clue – Leon is Noel backwards). The birth was very traumatic. There were a lot of complications. At one point there were no fewer than 15 health professionals in the room with us. Back in the day, grandfather George might have been totting up exactly how much all that knowledge, all that expertise, was going to cost him. But Heidi and I didn’t have to worry. Because of the NHS.

As the sun finally sneaked over the horizon like a kid told for the very last time it was bedtime, we shared many more stories of how the National Health Service had helped us all, every generation, and the extended family too. I’m sure many similar conversations will have been heard across the country, and will be heard today, too.

That’s why I’m supporting and promoting the anniversary by engaging with the following activities, and I’d like to encourage you to do so too:

  • Frames and twibbon – we have launched two Facebook frames and a Twitter twibbon for staff, patients and the wider public to show their support for the birthday. Come on, do it, even if you hate the word twibbon as much as I do!
  • NHS Voices – with the support of celebrities, the NHS Choir will be trying to get to number one for the birthday. Please support the NHS Voices campaign via social media.

And from twibbon to dinosaurs… The ridiculous to the sublime…

In Jurassic World one of the characters gave a speech (pretty much the only dialogue in the whole film, it seemed; the rest was all-action, all dinos snacking on folk) about how sad it would be that the de-extinct were about to become extinct again. In the world of the film, dinosaurs were not simply majestic, mythical creatures from books to children around the world, but, thanks to Jurassic Park/ World, they’d been made visceral. Real. To then have the dinosaurs die out again would be a heartbreaker for kids who’d lived with the sublime and had almost – but not quite – come to take them for granted.

The NHS is venerable – yes – and creaky in some parts. To hear some describe it, you’d think it was something mythical. Something from a film, or an ancient legend – perhaps something Arthurian. There’s something very round and tably about it in the national narrative. Some might describe the NHS as a dinosaur. But it ain’t. The NHS may have more varieties than Heinz but it is very real. And we cannot take it for granted. We must care for it, we must curate it, we must continue to help it to innovate, and we must continue to tell its story.

So raise a cuppa, or a glass of wine after five, to this sublime, multi-faceted collection of organisations, services, and most of all people. And be proud. And remember to share your stories on Yammer.

A quick epilogue. We talked into the night, into the birthday itself, before finally going to bed. On our way up to bed, we checked in on Leon, and on his sister, Peggy. Leon, we saw, hadn’t been as tucked-up and cosy as we’d previously thought. Perhaps our conversation outside had woken him up. Perhaps he’d been awake all the while. Either way, when we went into his room, we saw he’d laid all of his dinosaur figures out on his ‘volcano mat’, in battle formation (herbivores v carnivores).

For Leon, aged four-and-a-half dinosaurs are real. When we ask him where he would like to go on a day-trip, every time without fail his first choice is Jurassic Park. He’s young enough, idealistic enough, and un-cynical enough to still believe he walks amongst the sublime. In most respects, his parents and grandparents – us – we don’t believe in all that anymore. But we are very lucky that we can set cynicism to one side and see the embodiment of our ideals in the sublime National Health Service.

Fade out, to Jurassic Park theme…”




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