And its importance has never been felt more keenly than in recent months, when some 100,000 people needed specialist hospital treatment as Covid-19 ravaged their bodies.
On Sunday, the nation will mark the 72nd birthday of the National Health Service, and celebrate the inimitable legacy which still remains true to Aneurin Bevan’s founding principles, of providing a service that is available to all in their time of need.
At 5pm, the country is being asked to come together to applaud, in one last ‘biggest thank you clap’ the commitment, courage and sacrifice shown by so many during what has undoubtedly been the most challenging year in the NHS’s history - with staff working around the clock to tackle coronavirus.
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The health service itself is using the anniversary as a chance to reflect on both that challenge, and the extraordinary achievements of recent months.
Regional chief nurse north for NHS England and NHS Improvement, Margaret Kitching, said: “During the last few months, the NHS has been through the greatest test in its lifetime, and we will continue to deal with the many challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In Yorkshire, NHS staff have adapted to meet the pressures faced during the pandemic - something evident at Bradford Royal Infirmary, where a ‘mini hospital’ was set up to treat patients in need of urgent procedures - including cancer surgery - in a specially protected environment.
The ward also had its own pharmacy and physio support as well as a dedicated enhanced recovery nurse, intensive care unit support and two high dependency beds.
At Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust, the Mental Health team worked with primary care colleagues to build an isolation ward for COVID-19-positive patients and those showing symptoms at the Humber Centre in Willerby, Hull.
Open from March to May, it allowed patients in the medium to low secure centre to be treated away from other patients, ensuring coronavirus did not spread to other patients or staff within the hospital.
Service manager at trust, Karen McDonnell, said: “Staff were committed to ensuring that all patients received the best possible care – some even booked into hotels so they could continue to care for the patients without putting their families at risk.
“Others who lived alone totally isolated themselves from their external family network so they could continue to care for patients without putting their loved ones at risk. The primary care team and the mental health nurses provided valuable support to each other and we are so proud of them all.”
This year has also marked 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale, and her legacy was recognised in the NHS Nightingale hospitals that were set up in support of the Covid-19 efforts around the country, including in Harrogate.
In Barnsley, community teams made more than 500 home visits to vulnerable patients at home and 10,500 telephone calls.
While in Leeds, specialist nurse Sam Oakes and the mortuary team at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust provided pairs of knitted hearts to bring some comfort to bereaved families, with one heart given to the patient by the mortuary team and the funeral director gives the other heart to their family or loved one.
In Doncaster, virtual visiting kept people at home in touch with their loved ones.
Ms Kitching, the former director of nursing with NHS Barnsley, added: “As we remember all those we have lost, the way we mark our anniversary in 2020 will have a different feel to previous years. We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has helped the NHS respond to the pandemic, and we would like to reflect back the warmth and respect for the NHS and its people onto the country as a whole.”
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