The Olympics are here!


The NHS was celebrated in the opening ceremony of the Olympics in a scene comprised of gyrating [real] doctors and nurses and patients [who did not look too ill] jumping up and down on their beds!

The NHS frequently comes top in lists of things people are proud of about Britain. Nigel Lawson once famously said that ‘the NHS is the nearest thing that the British have to a national religion.’ It has certainly been the case that any politician who seeks to tamper with it has done so at his or her peril. It is always one of the most important election issues ‘Can the Tories be trusted with the NHS’ was a common theme in the last election. David Cameron has said ‘Tony Blair summed up his priorities in 3 words –Education, education education; I can sum up mine in three letters – NHS’

  ‘Since its launch in 1948, the NHS has grown to become the world’s largest publicly funded health service. It is also one of the most efficient, most egalitarian and most comprehensive.’

The core principle of the NHS is that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. The NHS is ‘free at the point of use’1 (free to see a doctor, you pay in other ways-through taxes, national insurance) for around 65 million people (2010). Only certain prescriptions and certain optical and dental services are chargeable – [These are free in Wales and Scotland.]

The NHS is this country’s biggest employer. World wide it is the fourth largest. Only the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the Wal-Mart supermarket chain and the Indian Railways directly employ more people. In 2008/9 it received a budget of £100billion.

Medical applicants need to know about the NHS. This is why there is a whole chapter on the NHS, its origins, principles, structure and how it runs in my book [chapter 3]  Medical School Interviews, All You Need To Know. The Knowledge. The NHS funds the training of medical students for their clinical years [the expensive last two years] and is trains all junior doctors.

As a doctor I am profoundly grateful to the NHS for being able to do my job without having to worry about whether the patient will be able to pay for treatment. It is hard enough to break bad news without inflicting financial worries!