Hannah Patterson

Views Editor

Christmas is a time to give thanks, so why not give thanks to your National Health Service this Christmas?

The NHS is rarely off our radar - it’s forever in the news, forever being discussed in Westminster, and in the winter months especially, forever being disparaged. We see articles about the long waiting times in emergency rooms up and down the country, the lack of staff, the outbreaks of viruses on the wards. NHS hospitals are spoken of as if they are haunted houses, with ghoulish insides to be terrified of. But at the end of the day, the NHS is one of the greatest things this country has to offer. I know this won’t be news to any of us (unless you’re a Tory, maybe), but at this time of the year, it’s important to take a moment to think and be grateful for the service that the NHS provides for us. 

Working in the NHS is a more difficult job than ever these days. Talk of it being sold to Donald Trump, fears of what Brexit means for some of the staff, and a constant disappointment from the public that increased funding is either not happening or not something they’ll ever see the benefit of can make working for your local health board a chore at the best of times. At Christmas, this can become especially taxing. As grateful as patients are in hospital, going home every day to see more and more articles about how the health service is failing us, the wait times are killing us, the nurses are mean, and the doctors don’t care starts to beat you down: no wonder some become disenchanted with their work.

It’s especially frustrating to see this when you think of all the truly amazing work that these people do. A few years ago, when my granny was sick, a doctor had to be called out to the house on Christmas Day to see her. This unassuming man walked into a house that had no cheer at all in it, and proceeded to make my granny feel like the most important woman in the world. He held her hand, spoke kindly to her, reassured her children, and managed to make everyone in the house feel just a tiny bit more settled. It was a small act of kindness from him, but it made a huge difference to us, and years later, at Christmas, my mum always takes a moment to remember the doctor who made her own mother feel “like a real lady”.

So this year, as you sit with your family on Christmas Day, take a moment to remember the thousands of doctors, nurses, porters, phlebotomists, secretaries, admin staff, and countless other professionals who are getting up, leaving their families and coming in to work to care for others. Think of the junior doctors who aren’t going home for Christmas for the first time because they’re working all week, and going back to an empty flat afterwards. Think of the people working nights in ICU, who have to spend their entire Christmas Day sleeping, and wake up just as you’re tucking into your dessert. These people don’t ask for your thanks, nor do they expect them, but they are the people keeping your loved ones safe over the festive period, and they deserve it.

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