Marching for Health

Friday 25th of April 2014  |  Category: Opinion  |  Written by: Leoarna Mathias

In the last few weeks of her life, my Mother in Law was in the care of the NHS. Each time I visited her, I climbed a staircase that took me past a portrait of Aneurin Bevan, better known as the founder of the NHS in the post war Labour government of 1948. My Mother in Law, suffering from cancer, received excellent care in her final days, though as a family, we could see that the staff of this large city hospital were pushed to the max, night and day. As I watched the comings and goings of ward life, I wondered what Mr Bevan would make of it all; the simple idea he had has grown into Europe’s largest employer, spender of billions of taxpayer’s money, and a source of much political debate.

I’m not sufficiently well-informed to be able to say whether the NHS is currently being well looked after by the present government, but I did note, via my social media channels, that a group of Mums have established a campaign to fight for, as they see it, the survival of free universal health care. Campaign organiser Joanna Adams is a mother of two and a call centre worker. Adams finds her motivation in having witnessed the care both her parents and sister received while terminally ill, and out of gratitude for her first child who was conceived via fertility treatment received in an NHS hospital. As she and many others see it, recent changes to legislation, and other policy measures, leave the NHS vulnerable to too much direct interference from the Dept of Health without accountability to the public. Adams will lead a march from Jarrow in the North East, to Westminster, during August of this year – echoing the route of the original 1936 Jarrow march against unemployment.

Without taking political sides I would applaud Mrs Adams’ campaigning. The NHS achieves remarkable things while operating under tremendous pressures. Just recently I noted this story, in which research done by NHS hospitals has led to the creation of a new test that will now significantly reduce the risk pre-eclampsia poses to mothers and their new born babies. About one in ten pregnant women will develop symptoms of this life threatening condition. Every year, a thousand babies die, and six or seven women lose their lives as a result of complications borne out of pre-eclampsia. Tests up until this most recent research have proved unreliable, but now, at team at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital have devised a new, more reliable and effective test. It measures levels of Placental Growth Factor in the mother’s blood stream in the last stage of pregnancy; where they are low, the risk of difficulties is high and early managed delivery via caesarean section is necessary. Experts say this is one of the most radical and significant developments in maternal medicine for a very long time, and that it will revolutionise the care of women who develop symptoms of pre-eclampsia. I’m guessing that this is one example of very many that demonstrates the progress the NHS makes every year on our behalf; that sounds to me like it is definitely something worth fighting – or marching - for.

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