UNISON celebrates NHS 70th birthday with the Mayor of London

NHS employers and staff joined together to celebrate 70 years of the NHS at City Hall on Wednesday 4 July at the invitation of UNISON and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

The seminar was one in a series of events across the capital this week recognising the extraordinary work that takes place every day in our NHS.

The event, chaired by Greater London Regional Secretary Maggi Ferncombe Speakers saw speakers express caution over the future of our health service at a time where it is threatened like never before.

Opening the event, Maggi Ferncombe said: “This is about celebrating everything that makes our NHS the greatest achievement of our movement.

“Its also about celebrating all staff, not just uniformed staff but cleaners, porters, technicians, administrators, everyone behind the scenes, without whom the NHS simply would not function.”

LAS UNISON Branch Chair Tim Stephens (far left) with his cycle paramedic training cohort

Tim Stephens, London Ambulance Service paramedic and Chair of the LAS UNISON Branch, said:

“My father has often described to me how he survived TB as a child in the early 50s, right at the start of the NHS, and how basic the care was.  But it was care he would never have had without an NHS, coming from a fairly poor inner city family.

“The kind of care the Ambulance Service provides now out on the streets of London and in peoples homes, the developments in how we respond and the high level of continued training clinical staff like me get would have been pretty much unimaginable 70 years ago.

“This is something I am most proud of, in the situations we find ourselves responding to we meet people in need and the care we give is based on what they need, nothing else.”

Deborah O’Dea, Chair for many years of the London NHS HR Directors Network and long-standing HR Director and Acting Trust Chief Executive, currently an NHS Mediator, spoke on the important role the NHS had played in her life and the opportunities it had provided to her.

However, she also warned that the NHS needed to innovate and see increased investment or risk falling behind other developed nations on quality of care and patient outcomes.

She said: “Deprive the NHS of staff and you deprive the country of that knowledge, skill and attitude.

“I am grateful that the Home Office seems now to look more favourably on overseas skilled doctors, nurses, therapists and other essential staff joining the NHS.

“Depriving the NHS of staff is a sure way to bring about its demise.”

Tim Stephens and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP cut the cake

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP gave a moving speech about her experiences working as an A&E doctor in her Tooting constituency at St George’s Hospital.

She said: “I can sum up what the NHS means to me in four words – a cup of tea.

“It’s the cup of tea I was given when I gave birth and my baby was taken away due to complications.

“It’s the cup of tea I share with paramedics after we’ve done our best to save someone but they haven’t made it. That’s the NHS I fight for.”