A tiring week working on-call in a busy hospital might not be the ideal time to reflect on what the NHS means to doctors.

But then again, perhaps the most honest reflections come when one is immersed in the realities of the NHS as it stands on its 70th birthday.

As I think about my week dealing with the range of patients that each day presents, I keep coming back to the fact that, despite its problems, irritations and frustrations, it remains a privilege to practice medicine in a system that focuses solely on the needs of the patient.

And that is why doctors and all of the other professions put in such hard work to make it work.

Ahead of the 70th birthday, we at the College asked our Fellows and Members for their own take on their experiences of working and training in the NHS.

Their collective response was great, and I was fascinated by accounts dating all the way back to when the NHS was first established in 1948.

Patients gained free access to contemporary medical care for the first time when the NHS began. This was an incredibly significant moment, especially given the major war that had gone before.

Doctors found pleasure working in a system where financial status or patient poverty was not a barrier to the best available treatment. They could sit on the beds of paupers and Lords, and treat each to the best of their ability.

One of our Fellows remarked that having seen first-hand treatment abroad being based on ability to pay, they truly appreciated a system that was based on “from each according to their means, to each according to their need, free at the point of contact”. This comment perfectly captures the sentiment of the time among my colleagues.

The NHS has been at the heart of many wonderful medical innovations.

One of our Fellows described how when he entered the NHS in 1975, he saw people dying from lung and heart disease for want of an effective treatment.

Over the subsequent years the service has evolved to be able to treat and manage many such diseases of the heart and lungs. The NHS has been a wonderful force for medical innovation.

Training is of course a vital aspect of a doctor’s career. Doctors I speak to have more often than not found training very challenging, but highly rewarding. And many more have cited the team spirit that junior doctors exhibit as having made the challenges worthwhile.

For doctors, working in the NHS means working with committed clinical staff in all disciplines - from nurses, physiotherapists, porters, cleaners – to create an inclusive work environment that all staff and patients can be proud of.

So, teamwork and loyalty to colleagues is one of the most important characteristics of the NHS. And ultimately, dedication to patients is what binds us all together.

I’m always heartened when I reflect on the commitment of NHS doctors to serve their patients. It is perhaps best summed-up by one College member: “I have met amazing people who do amazing things, yet regard it as all in a day's work”.



The article can also be read on Herald Scotland's website: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16337796.prof-derek-bell-what-does-th...

Paul Gillen

Contact: Paul Gillen p.gillen@rcpe.ac.uk 0131 247 3658