NHS At 70 – What Next?

The NHS might be the UK’s greatest ever achievement. Nothing else quite like it exists in the world. In just 70 short years it has grown from an idea to provide healthcare based on need rather than an ability to pay, to one of the most comprehensive and advanced organisations in history.

If you think that the NHS has got one or two issues, you’d be right. But if you think that things have ever been easy for this most egalitarian concept, you’d be wrong. In a way, that’s the good news, since as we reflect on the NHS in its 70th year we can see that somehow the idea survives. We can’t then be the generation that lets it fail – although it’s going to take a bit more than sheer faith to pull it out of its current hole.

Few of us won’t have had at least some small contact with the NHS – and if not ourselves, then members of our families certainly will have. The NHS has changed the entire country and contributed so much to the way we live and our standing in the world. Over the years the NHS has raised expectations of healthcare, given families security and further downstream, for the national economy, has meant more people able to contribute through employment – rather than needing to rely on benefi ts due to ill health. That’s all aside from the miraculous advances in medical technology that have occurred in hospitals in the UK – and for continuing work that will likely, in the future, save people from what we regard today as terminal illnesses or perhaps even the acquisition of disability from either accident or age. Based on the achievements of the past 70 years, the next 70 should be simply dazzling.


Figures published by the University of Manchester suggest that one in 35 people in the working population are employed by the NHS. It’s a staggering figure and is telling of how deeply important the organisation is to the country in all sorts of ways. Nevertheless, as with other large organisations, such as the Armed Forces, for example, the NHS will only continue to be sustainable if it understands correctly how the challenges it faces are likely to change. The NHS might well be seen as fighting evolving enemies including obesity, newly discovered diseases (or variations of diseases) and even mental health – again because of its importance to national outlook – and output.

An example of how the NHS has shifted in recent times is the Step into Health initiative which has helped it to attract Service-leavers into its ‘ranks’. The programme underlines the recognition of the transferable skills and values that Armed Forces personnel develop whilst Serving, and how they are compatible with those required within NHS roles.

Step into Health is open to all Service-leavers, Veterans and their spouse/ partner. It is an opportunity for employers within the NHS to work with the Armed Forces community to provide career and development paths. It’s also been a way to bolster numbers of good quality candidates entering the NHS since the European referendum which saw a disastrous haemorrhaging of overseas talent leaving the organisation – and a similar situation with new (overseas) applicants seemingly turning away.


Too their credit, NHS Employers were on the ball enough to realise that a Military background vests an individual with many of the attributes they’re
looking for, from work ethic and discipline through to an ability to analyse a situation quickly and act on initiative where necessary – and particularly when every second counts.

They were also canny enough to realise that Service leavers have strengths like communication and leadership that are important to the NHS. It is, after all, well known that the patient experience is heavily influenced by the approach taken by staff. Soft skills are enhanced by both hierarchy and teamwork, found in both the NHS and the branches of the Armed Forces, as well as a confidence in their skills and training. It might be argued that an ability to keep calm under pressure is a top trump in healthcare since illness, injury and the subsequent success or failure of the recovery process can be heavily influenced by what happens around the patient whilst they are being cared for.


The NHS has an ongoing ambition to fill it’s vacancies with quality candidates, not just in medical roles but throughout its vast infrastructure. Again Service leavers will realise that in a large organisation, even the small and simple jobs need to be carried out unless collapse and calamity is your aim. Again, it may not surprise you to learn that the NHS, as the largest employer in Europe has approximately 350 different career paths to select from – almost half nonmedical – but 100% of which still require the right attitude and values.

Again Step into Health can help, whether you are interested in catering, maintenance, administration, finance, communications or management, there’s a role where your background and transferable skills can again be put to work.

We can safety say that 70 years is pretty much proof that the concept of the NHS works. This is the Nation’s family silver and should be handed down to our children and grandchildren. Service-leavers can give a helping hand in polishing and repairing it.

More: Step into Health www.militarystepintohealth.nhs.uk 0345 60 60 655

Ambulance Trusts

The NHS isn’t all about hospitals or GP surgeries. Ambulance services are vital in helping many people with serious or life-threatening conditions. They also provide a range of other urgent and planned healthcare and transport services. (Ambulance services are managed by either an ambulance trust or a foundation trust and are another place within the NHS where the skills and attributes of Service-leavers are highly valued.)

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that in 2014-15, ambulance trusts dealt with nine million 999 calls – on average, this works out as 17.1 emergency calls per minute

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