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‘It is time to celebrate the achievements of the NHS’

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This month, like the rest of the country, Nursing Times will be helping the NHS celebrate its 70th birthday.

To help mark the event, we have pulled together a series of articles looking at nursing on the eve of the service’s creation on 5 July 1948 and how it has changed over the years.

We have sought the views of experts on the history of nursing about the challenges facing the profession both then and now, and also looked at what it was like to be a nurse during each decade of the service with a timeline of key events. 

In addition, Betty Smithson, who began her training as a nurse in 1948, discusses her experiences and the chief nursing officer for England, Professor Jane Cummings, explores what the anniversary means for her. Look out for them on nursingtimes.net over the next few days.

Meanwhile, we celebrated the NHS in 1940s style at our two most recent Nursing Times Careers Live events, in Leeds and London, where we hosted vintage tea parties, makeovers and dance lessons. If you came along, I hope you enjoyed it.  

Of course, amid all the bunting and warm words for what is regularly voted the nation’s favourite institution, we must not forget that many parts of the NHS are currently under the cosh – when aren’t they? – with too few nurses in the workforce and too little funding, to name just two of the challenges.

“We must not forget that many parts of the NHS are currently under the cosh”

Naturally, politicians have jumped on the anniversary as an opportunity to cash in on the feelgood factor, with announcements of extra funding and better things to come. Prime minister Theresa May has promised a new 10-year plan for the NHS that will “reset the deal between the NHS and its staff”, and said it will receive an average 3.4% funding increase annually from 2019-20 to 2023-24. 

On paper, these pledges sound welcome, but they require further scrutiny and we will need to hold ministers to account on them. Some have already described the funding as a “sticking plaster”, while questions remain as to where the money will actually come from. And what of public health and social care? 

It is true that the NHS faces many challenges – as those who work within it will testify – but this month it is time to celebrate the health service’s many achievements, the people who work in it now and all those who have worked in it over the years. Happy 70th birthday NHS!

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