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Eleanor Smith: I will fight for the NHS

Wolverhampton | Health | Published:

To mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Wolverhampton South West MP Eleanor Smith reflects on her 40-year career career as a nurse.

Labour MP Eleanor Smith on her last day of work as a nurse

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone working in the NHS a Happy 70th Birthday.

I want to thank you for all the hard work that you do, and will continue to do under the difficult circumstances that you face now.

I was a nurse for 40-years and know NHS staff will continue to do excellent work regardless of the circumstances. So, have a Happy Birthday.

The NHS is truly one of this country’s great achievements. It’s certainly Labour’s proudest achievement – providing universal healthcare for all on the basis of need, free at the point of use.

This picture was taken on my last day of work as a NHS theatre nurse. I’d just finished a 12-hour shift and the following day I started campaigning to become the Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West.

I know a lot of you reading this will be familiar with working long tiring days, but being a nurse on a 12-hour shift is up there with the best of them.

NHS staff work very hard – every cleaner, porter, nurse, doctor, goes above and beyond in carrying out their duties. That is the nature of the NHS.

However, that goodwill can be taken advantage of, and it has been.

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Leaving the NHS was a big life change, but I have always been passionate about the quality of care of patients and knew NHS staff were unable to give the level of care they wanted to.

I needed to do something about this, and so became an MP to help save the NHS.

I became a nurse because I love helping people. And that’s how most people who join the NHS feel. I won’t deny, however, that after being a girl guide it was also the hat and the uniform that appealed!

When I started I had this utopian vision of how it was going to be and how I would look after people. I started training in 1977, and worked as theatre nurse between 1984 and 2017 at Birmingham Women’s Health Care Trust.

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Back then holistic care was much more prominent. What I mean by this is that we had time to carry out what I call the niceties of the work.

You had the time to spend with patients, time for individual care, rather than feel you are on a production line to get them out of their beds, ready for the next patient. Now, there are never enough beds.

Working for the NHS was truly wonderful. Being able to provide love, support, and care to patients and their families, and treating them all equally, whether they had money or not.

It has to be run under its founding principles and be properly funded; private, profit-making companies have to be kept out of NHS service provision, and it has to stay under public ownership. I will fight for this.

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