In praise of the service that never sleeps

Health Minister Simon Burns highlights some of the great care being provided by NHS and social care staff across the country

Over the past couple of months, I’ve generally used this blog to take on some of the arguments against the reforms. It is a theme I’m sure I’ll return to at a later date, but it’s not this blog’s only purpose. I also want to use this space to highlight some of the fantastic work of NHS and social care staff.

One of the benefits of being a health minister is that you get to see the extraordinary difference the NHS is making to people’s lives, day in, day out, without fanfare or fuss. There’s no substitute for seeing the work of frontline staff firsthand – it puts the improvements we want to make to patient care into context and it helps keep us honest. NHS staff aren’t known to be timid when it comes to telling politicians what would help them deliver even better care to patients and what holds them back.

I have seen many examples of great care across the country over the last six months, but there are a few that really stand out.

I saw how South Petherton Community Hospital in Somerset – which opened just over a year ago – is radically improving care for people in the region with diabetes.  At their clinic, diabetes specialists, podiatrists and nurses provide a whole range of services and support for patients that helps put them in control of their condition, as well as making sure they have all the annual checks that can prevent complications.

I was impressed by how Broomfield Hospital, which is used by my constituents, is using bedside IT systems that patients can use not only to watch television and keep in touch with friends and family, but also to provide real time feedback on their care and treatment. It can be no coincidence that Broomfield’s John Wray Ward, which provides orthopaedic care, is rated by patients as one of the best wards of its kind in the country.

And in October last year, I visited North East Ambulance Service. I met their hazardous area response team, and heard about the dangerous and difficult work they do, that requires the kind of bravery and commitment that most of us with desk jobs can barely imagine.

I also heard about their preparations for the Olympic games. Like most people in this country, I’m incredibly proud that we’re the host nation for this year’s Olympics and Paralympics. I genuinely believe that London 2012 will be the best games ever.

During July and August, it will be the amazing sporting performances that grab the headlines. But behind the scenes, the NHS has been playing its part – from its role in emergency planning along with the police and other public services, to the role it plays in supporting our athletes.

It’s times like this that remind us that the NHS is the backbone of this country – it’s the service that never sleeps. Most of us will enjoy some time off this summer. If we’re lucky enough, we might get down to Stratford or to one of the other Olympic venues to see the world’s best athletes in action.

But NHS staff won’t be taking much leave during July and August. They’ll be working round the clock, just as they do at Christmas, just as they were over the Easter weekend, and just as they will be over the coming bank holidays. They may not be breaking any world records, but they’ll be saving lives and adding years to life in the care and support they offer. No one will be hanging medals around their neck, but what they do day in, day out, is in every way more heroic.

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