‘My relationship with the NHS goes back 20 long years... simply put, I feel privileged to be part of this diverse and historic organisation.’ As the nation marks the 75th anniversary of the NHS, consultant oncologist and RCP fellow Sonali Dasgputa considers what the health service means to her.
In my family, I am marked as the one who somehow lost the plot and wandered into the world of medicine. Choosing medicine was not a well-thought-out academic excursion, though. During my formative years, when asked to write essays on ‘what I would like to be when I grow up’, I always chose the career of doctor. This was not because I believed I would become one back then, but rather it helped me submit verbose, important sounding work, and the teachers loved it! But over time, unknown to me, medicine surreptitiously crept into my heart and soul. It nurtured me, taught me compassion, stimulated my scientific mind and disciplined me with resilience.
For a long time, I believed that being a doctor was the only thing I was ever good at. To challenge myself, I transitioned through being a wife and a mother, took up new activities in mature life that were alien to me, like gardening and martial arts (yes, I know! Why martial arts? Well… why not!). With several balls spinning in the air, I survived and in fact did reasonably well in each of these spheres, much to my own surprise. I then realised that even in my social environment, I rely heavily on essential life skills that medicine has taught me.
My relationship with the NHS goes back 20 long years and is quite visceral. Through the blood and sweat that we shared, we mutually learnt to respect each other’s strengths, and overcome each other’s imperfections. Personally, having been exposed to at least two other healthcare systems – in India and the USA – I can objectively compare. Simply put, I feel privileged to be part of this diverse and historic organisation. It is a unique system; socialist at heart ensuring high-quality care, free at the point of delivery, yet capitalist in its ambitions of economic growth and competitive market. The three key principles of healthcare sector are quality, equity and affordability. The NHS is the only organisation which achieves all three simultaneously and consistently.
In the UK, any sustainable social conversation, or even an ice breaker, is likely to feature three topics on which almost everybody seems to have an opinion – the great (or not!) British weather, the royal family, and last but not the least, our NHS! Our NHS forms part of our national pride and identity. Now at the milestone of three-quarters of a century of the NHS, surviving against all odds, let us remind ourselves that we all have a role to play in helping it to achieve its full potential.