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'NHS principles reflect what is good in society'


Pension cuts and below inflation pay rises mean seasonal cheer is in short supply this year. So here’s a feelgood story to cheer you up this yuletide.

Last week, online editor Nadine Woogara and I watched the preview of the Benenden Healthcare documentary ‘Ahead of its Time’, charting the history of the mutual society. Originally set up in 1905 by Charles Garland to help Post Office workers who had caught tuberculosis, the society took small payments from the many (30,000 people) to benefit the few who would need the services of its hospital in Kent.

It is a shining example of an entrepreneur who improved (and saved) the lives of thousands. We were inspired by the notion behind the society, and emotionally affected by the success it had achieved - in terms of patient outcomes, experience and its financial longevity. Many of the principles behind Benenden are the same as those behind the NHS - the altruism of people contributing so that those who need the services can use the contributions of the many, who in turn hope they never need to take up the service they help to fund. That principle is still going strong in Benenden - which now boasts 930,000 members. And it’s one we hope will protect the NHS in the months ahead. After all, what better example of Big Society is there than the NHS?

Nursing Times magazine is taking a break over Christmas. Our next issue is out on January 10. In the meantime, keep up to date with the latest news and update your clinical skills by activating your subscription at If you’ve not activated, you’re missing out on a raft of tools to improve your practice, including five FREE Nursing Times learning units.

Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Chat live with the editor and other nurses at every Wednesday at 1pm about this column.



Readers' comments (5)

  • Not for long ...

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  • michael stone

    The 'principle' behind the NHS, is basically that adequate health care is so important, that everyone should be able to have it. The 'principle' behind the Tories, seems to be the rich get whatever they can but, but the poor get very little.

    Happy Christmas, Mike !

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  • It's a shame that David Cameron talks about creating the Big Society in one breath and then proceeds to penalise and almost vilify the people who choose to dedicate their careers to helping others in the next breath. What message does that send out to the ordinary people in the street? Not that helping others is worthwhile and valued. How will we ever create a more caring society, where material wealth is not the most important aspect and people help and support each other, if the backbone of that society is treated so badly?

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  • For those concerned about equality and tackling poverty good public services are essential with the NHS being premus inter pares.

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  • 'Big Society' is a PR exercise in smoke and mirrors to try and justify why capitalism and privatising everything not nailed down is a good idea. Otherwise you're talking about what has been known as socialism or social justice.
    Altruism is profoundly different to philanthropy.

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