Over a week has passed since the Olympic opening ceremony in which 600 nurses and other healthcare staff stole the limelight as the world became their audience.
It was a moment of pride – not just for those who work in the NHS, but for the British public. And here’s why.
Most of those athletes who later marched around the Olympic stadium represent countries that can only dream of having a healthcare service that is free at the point of use and treatment delivered dependent on need rather than ability to pay. And our success at maintaining a health service (and let’s hope we can maintain it for many years to come) is something we should salute.
Our excellent nurses and other health professionals who deliver that care may not have a chance to top any podium (although they come pretty close at the Nursing Times Awards). They will not be cheered on by the front pages of the national press as they head out the door to start a long shift. And their handovers will not be accompanied by enthusiastic crowds and the gilding of local landmarks in their home towns. But they are champions none the less. And it is right that we pay tribute to this set of professionals.
The NHS isn’t represented by one of those towering constructions erected to symbolise the industrial revolution at the opening ceremony. It’s not about the buildings or the technology – it’s about the people. And that is why it had to be real staff representing the organisation at that ceremony.
Yes, the NHS is something to be proud of. Say it, shout it. There haven’t been enough people doing that of late. Nurses get it right time after time after time. They deliver excellent care, they save lives, they prevent people getting sicker and they make people feel better when they are ill. Millions of people are touched by the NHS in a positive way every year. Against the backdrop of all the criticism that comes nursing’s way, let’s never forget the sheer volume of lives that are enriched by nurses. That counts. That really counts. And Danny Boyle knows it. And he wants the world to recognise it.
Well done to him for showing off one of the greatest institutions in this country to four billion people. The NHS segment may not have lent itself to fancy graphic displays or celebrity cameos like some parts of the show, but it was just as magical. Feel the pride because as the whole world gathered around their televisions to inspect the UK’s most impressive achievements in the arts, philanthropy and innovation – the NHS was centre stage. Nursing was centre stage. Where it belongs. Now let’s hope that has inspired a generation.