Having recently watched a television programme about the start of the health service and having seen him on some rather old film, the likeness of the portrait is amazing.
Mr Bevan was health minister and the main force behind the free health service opening its doors to the public in July 1948. He left school at the age of 13 and was very much a self-educated man.
Each time I walk past the portrait of this famous Welshman and well-known socialist, I wonder what he would make of our present-day health service.
His portrait is positioned at the top of a set of stairs that lead directly down to the commercial heart of the hospital, the concourse. This is where the coffee shops, newspaper shops and other commercial enterprises live. It is a busy place during the day and, if not for the presence of the bereavement and ambulance control offices, one could be forgiven for not realising it was part of a hospital.
Despite the presence of this commercial heart in the hospital, should you be an inpatient where I work it is impossible to purchase a morning daily newspaper unless you are able to walk all the way to the shops. So, if you happen to be an avid reader but have limited mobility – the concourse is a long way from the wards – and have few visitors, your chances of obtaining your daily paper are slim.
Should you want the local evening paper, the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) trolley sells it on the wards. The WRVS buys the papers from the newsagents at the selling price to provide this service – none of the commercial firms from the concourse go near the wards with a trolley. I assume that staff costs would negate any profit made.
My mother-in-law read two papers every day until she was admitted to this hospital, where she spent the last six months of her life. Despite having lots of family around, it was impossible to regularly procure her a morning paper at a time in her life when she really needed something to occupy her mind.
I have had an interesting discussion with a patient’s relative on the same topic. He lived at the other end of the country and was upset that his elderly mother could not receive her daily paper – she loved the stimulation of the crossword. All I could suggest to him was to write to the trust chairperson.
The older generation in this country were brought up on newspapers. Our wards are full of older people, yet we deny them access to daily papers. I wonder what Mr Bevan would think of that?
Gail Smith is a staff nurse in Cardiff
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