Important insights by Florence Wilcock, consultant obstetrician at Kingston Hospital and co-founder of #MatExp, as we celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS today,
5 July 2018.

One cannot open a newspaper, listen to the radio or turn on the TV without a reminder that today the NHS turns 70. For many of us this means that we have no recollection of not having had health care free at the point of use, so perhaps we sometimes take it for granted. The sentiment of being able to do what I feel is right for my patients regardless of cost and without personal gain has always been of central importance to my desire to practice medicine. As we approach the celebrations I’ve been feeling a little despondent, it’s hard to shout and cheer when dealing simultaneously with unprecedented scrutiny of quality and finance and a level of bureaucratic oversight can feel stifling.

Therefore as the NHS turns 70 & I celebrate having worked in the NHS for 25yr here are a few of my positive reflections on NHS maternity care.

  • The NHS trained me; don’t forget that not only does the NHS treat and care for patients, it provides clinical training for the many doctors , midwives and associated healthcare professionals of the future. The babies born when I was training as a medical student would now be 26yrs old; if I hadn’t witnessed and helped at those births I would not have been inspired to be an obstetrician helping and caring for women now.
  • Over the years the NHS has also contributed to specialist training of many overseas doctors some of whom now practice here, but many of whom return home and benefit women and families across the globe.
  • Although British I was born in Brussels and my parents tell the story of arriving at the hospital with my mother in the late stages of labour and my father having to confirm his ability to pay before they started to look after her. I cannot imagine looking after someone in these circumstances. I have seen maternity bills on Twitter reaching $20000 from the USA and have talked to people when I travel abroad about their difficulties in affording basic antenatal and intrapartum care; in this country we do not give this a thought.
  • We have first rate neonatal care so that babies born prematurely have the best chance of survival, I know mothers in other countries who have not been so lucky, our babies do not die through lack of equipment such as an incubator or ventilator.
  • When we celebrate all those babies born in the NHS over 70 years, we must not devalue those of us who were not. Many excellent work colleagues and families using maternity service were not born here but do contribute to and deserve the excellent maternity care that the NHS can provide.
  • Although the NHS can sometimes seem a huge faceless organisation cited as wasteful and cumbersome, I know it is full of the most dedicated, hard working people and that day in day out these people are trying to make a difference as best they can in challenging circumstances.
  • During my work in Maternity experience #MatExp I have found many like-minded maternity health professionals whowant to work in genuine partnership with women and families and being open and honest about our limitations and co-producing solutions.

So as we celebrate the NHS 70th birthday, let us try and build a foundation for the next 70 years of maternity care that we can be proud of.

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