Talk about Newsnight


NHS at 60 - A picture of health

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Jun 08, 02:53 PM

nhs203.jpgOn 5 July 1948 the National Health Service was brought into existence, making free public health care at the point of delivery available to all, funded by the tax system.

The NHS that is now 60-years-old is a very different beast. A hot topic at election time, how best to fund, run and modernise it is a thorny issue that successive governments have tackled with mixed results.

As part of Newsnight's coverage, you can tell us what the NHS means to you.

In the run-up to the anniversary we want to know about the NHS in your area. What are the issues that are most important to you? What are your experiences of the NHS?

We are producing a map to show the hot topics in your area so be sure to select the issue that matters to you from the dropdown menu, plot your location on the map and add your comment. Click here to see the map.

You can also contact us privately - click here to send us your comments via Newsnight's webform, where you can also find details of how to send us photographs and video.

And Liz MacKean explains more about the project in the video below.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I'm sorry FREE public health care ??? surely if somebody works and pays in to the tax system they do (if not directly) pay for their and their depentants health care meaning that it is only FREE if i were to arrive from another country not work and then get treated.

    Please note i have nothing but respect for individuals "on the front line" like doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, porters, paramedics and all other hard working often poorly paid staff but i have to change my level of praise when touching upon the paper pushing, red tape loving elite at the top who make the decide how best to squander EVERYBODY'S hard earned tax money.

  • Comment number 2.


    We are all aware that tax on tobacco and alcohol have yielded a tax-take to uplift the 'health service' while paradoxically lowering the standard of health of many, at great cost to - the exchequer! As with so many aspects of UK governance, it 'adds up' in harsh monetary terms, because the tax is greater than the expenditure; hence the misery, sickness and death are, that old friend of government: 'A PRICE WORTH PAYING'. It has been revealed that Macmillan knew, and suppressed, the truth of tobacco, yet the rearguard action protecting that particular revenue stream continues to this day. As for alcohol: there too we watch an endless succession of tinkerings, designed to keep that tax coming. There must be a way to disconnect the funding of sickness-care from tax on sales of the cause of that sickness. I'll give it some thought. I apologise for the above not being a local issue; can I claim multi-local?

  • Comment number 3.


    The ‘National Health Service’ is 60. It is not in bad shape for its age, but then, it has never smoked or imbibed alcohol – only absorbed the taxes these provide.
    There is a poignancy about the name NHS, as its aim was never HEALTH PROMOTION, only the alleviation of sickness – a Treatment Service. Had this country had a Health Service proper, since 1948, these 60 years might have yielded a departure from alcohol worship, and an end - long ago - to legal, condoned, tobacco smoke inhalation.
    What other good outcomes might have accrued; who can say? But it is a fair bet that obesity might have been held in check. Further: it happens that Dame Susan Greenfield was on Daily Politics today, calling for research into the impact on brain and behaviour of the ubiquitous 2D screen in a 3D world. Perhaps even the NHS we have, would be on top of that question, and many more, to the general advantage of an astonishingly healthy Britain, had it not been bogged down all its life with state sickness engendered by state poisoning.

  • Comment number 4.

    It is worth doing an audit of the performance of 'Public' vs 'Private'. A recent BBC undercover report in Wales [Week In Week Out - link below] exposed shocking practises in the cleaning [or lack of it] in certain hospitals.

    They were using private contractors. As far as I can see, things appear far better at the West Wales General Hospital [Glangwili], since as far as I know, they do the cleaning 'in-house'.

    It may not be as 'cut and dried' as this. Some private provision may be appropriate. But when I hear of things like 'polyclinics' being planned I have visions of the kind of radical cost-cutting which banks and the like have done to cut staff and push 'customers' into using technology to 'manage resources'.

    Having seen the film 'Sicko' I don't want to see our NHS, which I admit is not perfect, being turned into a profit-driven operation at the expense of patient care, cleanliness and well-being along an American model.

  • Comment number 5.

    Waiting times at Gloucester hospital for routine operations are much shorter than those in North London - Northwick Park.

    Mixed wards are awful, very distressing, especially for older patients.

    A lack of beds on specialist wards at Gloucester Royal.

    Excellent staff in the ICU at Gloucester Royal.

    The food is terrible.

  • Comment number 6.

    Great Staff.
    Poor management.
    KPIs that direct resources in the wrong direction.
    Ultimately a service that at best is average.
    It is not free.
    It is not as good as it ought or deserves to be.

  • Comment number 7.

    What matters to me is KEEP OUR NHS PUBLIC in the face of a determined patchwork privatisation process, already far advanced, that is being pushed through by this government, whilst pretending that it "isn't privatisation" or whilst saying "people don't care who provides the service as long as it's good". Already, GP practices dotted all over the country are being forced into the hands of private healthcare companies such as American-owned United Health. And this is all being done by stealth so that people don't notice. What matters to me is to STOP this.

  • Comment number 8.

    The NHS is 60 and showing her age. This service is like the Fire service. Too much fire fighting, but not enough fire prevention. Most of the money that successive Governments have poured in seems to have vanished into hefty pay awards for the management and pension schemes for doctors and nurses whilst some patients die before they can get the operation, or treatment to prolong their life, or get infections from dirty hospitals, or be unlucky to live in a post code that the local trust will not provide treatment, and medicine that the next post code over provides for free. It seems all the politicians can do is tinker round the edges to make it look like they are doing something about it when all they are doing is creating paper chases and useless targets to make them look good. They will say "poppy cock", but then they use private health care, don't they? All paid for with our blood , sweat, and taxes.

  • Comment number 9.

    Whoa there, if I suffer a catastrophic body failure or serious injury in any part of the world outside of Britain I would be unable to access health care without evidence of upfront payment and evidence of future liquidity, I would also be subject to decontamination issues, waiting for treatment (unless I waved sufficient cash around), inept management/health-care, profitability and insurance vagaries

    Yes the NHS has its problems, and these should be confronted without political gain /ineptitude/inertia as a barrier. Let us not put privatisation and the resultant profit motive as a further barrier to a commitment for a health service for all

    I am rather grateful to have access to the NHS, I am aware that I cannot expect a complete service, tax revenue simply will not stretch that far and it is unrealistic to expect so, however I am cautious about dedicating any more of that revenue to private companies or ‘management’ in expectation of solving present issues facing such a unique system

  • Comment number 10.

    Having served for three years in the army I always had an idea that the catering corp should be drafted in to solve the problems of bad NHS food rather than idiot-celebrity chefs.

    The army produces huge quantities of tasty, nutritious food (usually with a pretty good choice of menu), presumably on a small budget (as everything else the army does is on a small budget) and seems capable of keeping the stuff hot until the troops show up to eat it.

    If one public sector organistation can manage it why not another?

  • Comment number 11.

    It would be ironic as well as tragic if New Labour privatised the the very body that old Labour brought in 60 years ago, the NHS.
    I have used it and as well as millions in the UK who have used it. Sure there are problems but surely they can be resolved without privatisation. Seems that the NHS is being used in an ideological battle of public against private the subject of Blair's public reforms messianic vision.
    An Indian doctor friend of mine who worked in the NHS for two years before moving to the US told me recently, 'don't loose your NHS'. 'Sure if you are hit by a car or collapse with a heart attack the services will take you to a hospital but you won't get any treatment of medication without insurance' and I may add only up to a certain cash amount as we have seen with private medicine in the UK with major surgery unpaid for being completed by the same doctors in the NHS!!!
    Ironic too that the US is looking at the UK with envy at our NHS system so why on earth do New Labour think like this...gongs and backhanders maybe for compliant health managers and PCTs? Our PCT in Camden has recently sold three GPs surgeries to US company United Health (subject of Michael moore's movie 'Sicko' and already they have fired two doctors and closed the child clinic, all within a month of take over. No wonder they won the tender with a cheaper bid. Any idiot can cut just like Nazrudin's donkey, feed it less to save money and it will die. This is what governments have done in the public sector starve it to death and make it ripe for a cheap private takeover. Is the NHS next? I hope not.

  • Comment number 12.

    I sometimes think that the primary focus of the NHS, being a large public sector organisation, is to serve the people who work for it first with the business of looking after patients coming a close second. Sort of a self-serving beaurocracy where its personnel are self-organised into special interest groups who discreetly resist attempts to make the organisation more customer focused. I feel sorry for the senior managers and the politicians who have to run it, frankly. I'm probably wrong, that's just the way it appears to me on occasion.

  • Comment number 13.

    Although the NHS is 60 years old, I feel the psychiatric care hasn't improved at all. In Cleveland, where I live, one poor lady was admitted to a secure ward in the local psychiatric hospital, sectioned and then, because she was disturbed and attempting suicide, the police were called and she was arrested and placed in a police cell where she later committed suicide. She was taken out of the environment where she should have felt safe and taken to the local police station! I know of another young man who was admitted to the same hospital in a very vulnerable state. On the same ward were men who talked about drugs and of being in prison and felt very threatened when he should have felt safe in a secure environment. Eventually, after trying to hang himself twice with the dayward curtains and banging his head repeatedly on the wall, he flung himself out of the window to escape the environment he was in, resulting in serious injuries. Where were the staff while all this was going on!
    In a hospital in Stockton in Cleveland, 2 young men have committed suicide in the last year, again they were supposed to be on close observations.
    Psychiatric care has been the Cinderella of the Health Service for far too long and it's high time there were changes. The closing of hospitals and the so called Care in the Community is diabolical. Many mentally ill patients are left to wander the streets with no one caring for them, it's a national disgrace. Paul Gascoine is an example, because now his friends have deserted him at the very time he needs them as happens with most mentally ill people because of the stigma associated with it. More should be done to remove the stigma as there but for the Grace of God go I.

  • Comment number 14.

    NHS is in bad shape.

    Men live several YEARS less than women - it is failing men.

    There are limited resources so a fair system would mean that life expectancy across gender would be equal. Gender equality shouldn't be always about how women should get more.

    The priority for NHS should be to get male life expectancy and health to the same level as women.

  • Comment number 15.

    As a fully paid up member of the NHS I'm grateful that I only have to use the system infrequently but, at 74 years of age, I have a hearing problem.
    After a hearing test in September 2007 the moulds for hearing aids were made 4 days later. I also know that my hearing aids have been sitting on a shelf in the hospital since February 2008.
    With 60 years experience to call on, and teething troubles aplenty, I expected the NHS might be more efficient.
    In 1997 Tony Blair told me he only had 24 hours left in which to save the NHS and, more recently, I'm told that Gordon Brown is listening. It's a pity I can't do the same.
    Having had the hearing test I'm no longer a statistic...............but I'd love to create a space on that hospital shelf and also hear my wife shouting at me again!

  • Comment number 16.

    It is a myth that private healthcare is better than the NHS. Where on earth did people get that idea? Can they justify it? A friend of mine DIED in a private clinic because the level of service was so poor. A banal mistake by an anaesthetist killed him. But hey, he had a private room with TV and flowers.

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with sofarnogood. The psychiatric services have been badly neglected. I think that Care in the community is suitable for many, but not for all those with severe and enduring mental illness. There are far too many people in prison who suffer from severe mental illness, and often do not get adquate treatement, which improves their condition although it does not cure it. These ilnesses affect nt only the patient, but the family(if they have one) many are left to sleeprough. I am distinguishing them from the drug takers and alcoholics who need different treatment and care. I would also include the families of these unfortunate people. Mental illness can often break up the family. The Government propooses to spend a gret deal of money on new prisons, although I believe) they only have money for the sites. Would it not be wiser to spend the money on psychiatric hospitals and other places of safety for these patients? On the training of more psychiatric trained staff, and support for the familes. Nobody asks to be mentally ill, it is their great misfortune.

  • Comment number 18.

    A few years I had a "frozen shoulder" and was faced with a long wait for physiotherapy.
    I therefore had physiotherapy privately, but after a month I was given an appointment with an NHS physiotherapist.
    I attended the appointment, at which I was asked if I had been attending any other practitioner. and I confirmed that I had.
    I was then told I would have to wait six weeks before I could have NHS treatment. I understood this to be of insurance and liability for mishaps.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm a diabletic, with high blood pressure and other complications, the story about paying for medication makes me worry as I have been told to use asprin 75mg nightly (100 tabs cost ~£1.30) but these have not been put on my list of prescribed medication.

    So will I now lose my other meds which I receive free as an insulin user and taking ~ 15 tables a day this makes me very worried that I could lose all the current meds and any further meds I may have to take in the furture.

  • Comment number 20.

    Firstly a note to number 19 'steelman65'.
    My view is that it is not at all likely that you will have to pay for your medication. Ask your doctor, soon, then try to stop worrying.

    Is our's the only family that has received exceptional attention from the NHS. Maybe we've just been lucky? In Harrogate, North Yorkshire our GP practice and local Hospital have (among other things) seen us through . . .
    *Maternity ward - really caring.
    *A double pneumonia with an unexpected heart problem - a doctor treated and returned 5 times during one night till the heart beat stabalised. - exceptional.
    * Psychogeriatric unit supported granny and carer through years of Alzeimer's.
    * Now I have 2 NHS digital hearing aids which allow me to contiue working - I had to wait in a queue but the wait was worth it.

    I accept that many, many families have different sad stories to tell but there must be millions like us who have been treated well by our National Health Service.

  • Comment number 21.

    I was a very hard-working junior doctor in 1973. I qualified in Bristol. It was not unusual to work long hours repeatedly for months. I worked on a one-in-two job on an acute ward. 24 hours on call, 12 hours resting,24 hours on call, 12 resting, 24 hours on call 12 resting and alternate weekends.
    At this pace of working, something has to 'give'. It was usually our own health.
    I can only help that this level of working no longer applies.
    This was to improove peoples health, but how we did it was very difficult. It was necessary to rely on the nursing staff to inform us of any NEW problems on the ward.
    Please do not let this level of duty be repeated to the detriment of health care

  • Comment number 22.

    Co-payments. Like steelman 65 I also buy 75mg aspirin and have done so for sometime. As a precautionary measure my doctor has placed me on statins. Should I now insist that he prescribe the aspirin?? This is in truth no different than the gentleman suffering from cancer on Newsnight last night who wants the NHS to provide him with treatment but also buys Cetuximab out of his own pocket.

    Get real

  • Comment number 23.

    My mum went in to hospital on the 3rd january 2008 for a hip replacment. She was given an Epidural. Apparently this was decided on the morning of the operation. My mum and her family were told she would be having a general anesthetic. After the opp she was never the same. Two weeks later she had a stoke. She was taken down to theartre another two times after this as the operation did not work. After this she developed severe diarrhoe, which was offensive. This went on for a number of months during her time in hospital. We were told there was no reason for the diarrhoea. We were then told they could do no more for her and we had to get her in to a nursing home asap. With the pressure on to find a home the day my mum was to leave, we were told they would be decorating the ward. Which we later found out had not been decorated but steam cleaned. Entering the nursing home the staff sent a sample of her stool which came back as cdif. She then deterated fast and passed away 4 weeks later. She was a fit and healthy women who was out at bingo and the church every day. She went into Whiston Hospital and we put our trust into them and she did as well.

  • Comment number 24.

    In praise of an NH hosptal and medical staff-Last year after being treated by my GP for an ulcer for 14 months!!! I was diagnosed with a GIST, I was treated at Rochdale Infirmary, there my surgeon with the support of his MDT, saved my life by the total removal of my stomach. This GIST has now reappeared as a secondary in my liver and again I have been given the best advice/care and have been referred to the Christie Hospital where probably I will be prescribed a drug called GLIVEC to shrink the GIST. If this drug doesn't work, the next drug to be prescribed would probably be SUTENT. This is the drug which has had a lot of publicity over the last year, as it appears it is a post-code lottery as to who receives it..the famous Tony Wilson who recently died was refused it by NICE and had to pay for it out of his own pocket. My point being that I fervently hope that the GLIVEC will work, as the added stress of having to fight for drugs ie SUTENT, within the NHS to save my life is a terrifying prospect and not a scenario I relish in my uncertain future.

  • Comment number 25.

    comment to mfgmfg
    Perhaps your excellent treatment has something to do with the fact you live in an affluent area where people usually are more vocal and, dare I say it, more demanding of good treatment. As a former nurse, one consultant in the out-patients used to look at the notes to see where the patient lived before he would go in the room. An Asian patient was told to learn English before he stormed out of the room and when a baby died during labour, one doctor commented and I quote,"Thank goodness the mother was a Gypsy". All this was a long time ago but I think some of these attitudes and prejudices still exist.

  • Comment number 26.

    the national health services [nhs] needs to be improved and reform to make it a good service for the next 60 years.

  • Comment number 27.

    An Unprofessional Practice

    My 7 yr old grandson was admitted to Countess of Chester Hospital for emergency treatment. He was found to be suffering from pneumonia and a partially collapsed lung. The medical practice responsible for his health discussed symptoms over the phone and refused to attend him at home even after 3 requests on 3 consecutive days. The GMC and NHS accept that diagnosis of illness may be made over the telephone from information supplied by anybody. This practice is unprofessional and does not inspire confidence in the NHS, especially when the lives of young children are at risk.

    A doctor's duty is a duty of care to his patient which duty cannot be carried out without hands-on diagnosis. This aspect of care in the NHS is fundamentally flawed and is not acceptable practice. This practice must be changed so that the lives of young children are not put at risk unneccessarily.

  • Comment number 28.

    I am having current experiences of the NHS with my 90 year old mother.
    Briefly, she was admitted to hospital six weeks ago. After two weeks she went to a rehab unit. After another two weeks she was sent home. Four days later she was re-admitted to hospital, where she is tonight - problem not solved!
    Reasons: after the initial two weeks in hospital the doctors said she was 'medically fit' to be discharged, so they met their 'targets'. The two weeks in rehab met the social services 'targets' and the government was happy; except, of course, she wasn't fit and is now back in hospital. Have you ever tried to get re-admission figures from an NHS Trust? They are not available because the government is not interested.
    It would be so much more meaningful if these wretched 'targets' included figures for readmission because that would indicate whether a problem had been solved long-term, rather than the short-termism so favoured by governments to make the figures look better.
    I suspect my mother will be sent home soon and will be back in hospital soon after. The targets will have been fulfilled, the NHS Trust will look good, the government will crow - and my mother will still be ill. It's very depressing.

  • Comment number 29.

    One and a half years ago I had to have a face transplant to deal with an arterial problem. This was a difficult time and the impact of major surgery was a shock. However, I can't praise the NHS enough. Both the technical skills and the human care that I received was, I believe, second to none in the world. I was helped medically and personally to deal with my condition and my feelings.
    I did have some initial problems accessing the service. I had to travel from the Midlands to London for treatment, but it was worth it to receive a specialist service. Also, there was a hiccup when a hospital had to stop part of their service because they had too many people on the waiting list to comply with government targets. This seemed to defeat the point of government targets.
    However, once I had accessed the service I was very proud of the NHS. It is something that we must defend at all costs.

  • Comment number 30.

    What an interesting thread, so many opinions and experiences! It's quite difficult to ascertain the true state of the NHS. Like almost everyone here, ive has both good and (more recently ) bad experiences with the NHS. I do feel that it is a system that is worth keeping and defending.

    However, i am increasingly coming round to thinking that that with the UKs ageing population, the private sector has a role to play in coping with the burden somewhat. Perhaps the larger health insurance companies could begin to provide a wider range of policies to cover a greater breath of the population. Just an idea.

  • Comment number 31.

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