People's History of the NHS

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The NHS at 70 – A Poem

by Jenny Crane

The NHS inspires, and has long inspired, a range of cultural representations, tributes, and, indeed, critiques, including from poetry, literature, visual art, and television and film. Today, we are delighted to share a special poem, written by Larry Lagrue in honour of the NHS 70th Anniversary. Larry is a Dorset Poet and Blogger.  His blog is called “W is for Duck” and every Friday Larry posts a brand new poem.  You can see his blog at www.wisforduck.wordpress.com, as well as finding it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – all under the name of W is for Duck.

NHS @ 70

70 years ago, a simple ideal
Was brought to life, and made real.
One place for care – care that was free
For every member of society.
The barriers to medical help were removed,
So people’s lives could be improved.
And in these 70 years has not our nation
Enjoyed a healthcare transformation?
It has not been easy – of that, you can be assured
You opened up, and in we poured.

We come, relentless like a flood
With broken limbs, or poisoned blood.
We’ve injuries to body and mind
Some cannot speak; some have gone blind.
The obvious injuries, with blood and pain
And the unseen wounds that affect the brain
A son, a niece – a nephew too
A brother, mother, me – or you.
Sisters, aunties, grandparents – all
Those who stumble, trip, and fall.

From Childcare and Maternity
To when death takes an eternity
You take it all without a word
From the obscure to the absurd.
When we choke upon a piece of bread
Or wedge a saucepan on our head,
When our botched attempts at DIY
Result in lost fingers, hands or eyes.
Organ failure, broken bones
Injuries caused by the telephone.

Panes of glass that we fall through
Knee replacements – sometimes two.
Cancer treatment and chemotherapy
Dementia that ruins lives so cruelly.
When this life takes a downward trend
We look to you, to help us mend.
Diseases that we caught unaware
Despite the fact we did not care
To listen to your good advice
And had this same infection – twice.

No matter what life puts us through
We always have one constant – you.
You are – and always have been there
Not one to judge, just help and care
With patience, kindness and sincerity
For all our glorious disparity.
For reward or plaudits, you do not ask,
Just quietly get on with your task
And though ingratitude and threats
You continue to always do your best.

As a nation we do take you for granted
Yet hope you will not be supplanted.
Through the joy, and pain, and hurt and tears
You’ve been with us for Seventy Years
And in those years have there not been
Such advancements in care and medicine?
But what is the same as way back then
Is the fact that it is women and men
Who are the NHS at its heart
(although the buildings play a part)

It’s everyday folk, just like you and me
Who have borne our burden wonderfully.
No capes are worn, no pants outside
But these superheroes give our nation pride.
Giving care, and respect, and dignity
An example to our global society
Through lack of funding and winter pressures
The effort and love comes in equal measure
And no amount of words can really express
How grateful we are for our NHS

Larry Lagrue

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