Last week, my 87-year old Grandma was admitted to Northwick Park Hospital, having broken her shoulder, hip and wrist. When I got the call on Tuesday night, my fraught concern for her health was intensified by news report images of overflowing A&Es, exhausted nurses, and doctors on the brink of breakdown.
When I arrived at the hospital on Wednesday, I was incredibly relieved to find my Grandma in great spirits. She had been entertaining the nurses with the story of her injuries; she had fallen over whilst doing sideways jumping jacks in a ‘Keep Fit’ exercise class. Fortunately the breaks were only fractures, and although painful, her main concern was that she would not be fully recovered in order to go on holiday to Uzebekistan this May.
Nevertheless, she had to be admitted to be monitored, and had been given a hospital bed within 7 hours of arriving in A&E. She was initially rescued by Australian ambulance drivers, cared for by South Asian nurses and treated by a kind, hard-working Junior Doctor. Next week, she is being transferred to a live-in injury rehabilitation unit in Hillingdon, and following this, I am delighted that she apparently has a great chance of recovery.
I wasn’t due to go on the #OurNHS demonstration this weekend, but visiting my Grandma this week reminded me why we must not just defend the NHS hospitals who are under the greatest stress, but also fight for the wonderful services that they can offer when fully and properly resourced.
Despite having had the means to do so later in her life, my Grandma has refused to ever receive private medical care, even in the face of life-threatening illnesses. We need more people like my grandmother in the world whose principles are unshakeable even in our most frightening hour. I hope one day to grow to be the principled, fiery, intelligent 87-year old woman she is today.
Unless we defend the NHS with all of our might, then it is no exaggeration to say that we may not all live to see 87 years old. We have seen this Tory government look longingly to the US, and May’s support for Trump points to their ideological similarities; he wants to overturn even the meagre medical care that Obama brought in with the Affordable Care Act. When will the NHS be next on May’s list?
Listening to the speeches at yesterday’s rally, you notice that more so than any other political issue, every single person had a story to tell of when the NHS had touched their lives at the most difficult moments when we find ourselves in need. I was born in Northwick Park hospital where I went to visit my Grandma this week. One day, hopefully in the distant future, I may die there too.
I do not identify with being British, so whilst I am incredibly proud of the NHS, it is not its ‘Britishness’ which gives me that pride. What makes me proud, as I marched with 250’000 others yesterday, is being a part of the socialist tradition which had the audacity to fight for the NHS in 1945, and has continued to defend it for the last 70 years.
Many people quoted Aneurin Bevan yesterday, for good reason, who said “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.” Yesterday, we saw there are still plenty of us left with the resolution to fight. My Grandma, amongst many others, reminds me why the struggle for dignity and social justice must continue. There has been no other time in recent history when we need everyone for the fight.