A special message for NHS70…Lynda Logan, Lead Chaplain

Lynda Logan

To celebrate NHS70 and its theme of volunteering, we’re publishing a special article by EEAST volunteer, Lead Chaplain Lynda Logan. It also happens to be her 70th birthday as well – happy birthday, Lynda!

It is a privilege to write this article published on the day the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday. Today, we take the National Health Service for granted but it was only 70 years ago that health care was a luxury few could afford. It is hard to imagine what life was like without ‘free’ healthcare.

The 1848 Public Health Act was important for England and Wales, identifying all major public health issues of the time and establishing a structure for dealing with “more effective provision for improving sanitary conditions of towns and populace places in England and Wales”. Public health became the responsibility of local people. Other acts followed but it was the 1875 Public Health Act which brought together a range of them covering sewerage and drains, water supply, housing and disease and local authorities had to appoint Medical Officers in charge of public health.

It took a century of discussion, the first and second world wars and the 1942 Beveridge Report before  then Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan developed plans for a national health service which approved the nationalization of all hospitals, voluntary or council run. Health care, which had been the responsibility of local authorities and sympathetic charitable doctors, was to become the responsibility of a new welfare state. Funded by the taxpayer, with the rich paying more than the poor, healthcare was to be free to everyone at their point of use: it was later that prescription charges and dental charges were introduced.

On 5th July 1948, the NHS took control of 480,000 hospital beds in England and Wales. An estimated 125,000 nurses and 5,000 consultants were available to care for hospital patients. In its first year, the NHS cost ₤248m to run, almost ₤140m more than had been originally estimated. Local authority health services, no longer in control of the hospitals, still ran immunization and maternity clinics, provided community nurses and oversaw infectious diseases. And now, 70 years on, how the NHS has developed and grown with its myriad of services, including its ambulance service. As a birthday present, the current Government is promising ₤20bn extra per year in funding by 2023 and is asking the NHS to produce a 10-year plan for productivity, efficiency, staffing, and other areas.

I was born on 5th July 1948 at The Mount in London Road, Luton. My parents were not well off and lived with my maternal grandparents. Their home was small so my father booked a room in the maternity home, no longer in existence, to ensure my mother had privacy and the proper care she needed when she gave birth to her first born. However, when the day came, he only paid for the residential fees, all medical costs were covered by the new NHS.

The fact that I had been ’born free’ has come to mean a great deal to me. I have often reflected upon how my paternal great grandfather, born in 1861 and at a pivotal time in the development of the nation’s health care, became the Borough of Luton’s Assistant Sanitary Inspector and Cleansing Superintendent. Working under the direction of the Medical Officer of Health, he spent some 40 years trying to ensure the cleanliness of Luton. During the Great War, my paternal grandfather was in the army medical corps in Egypt. I have a photograph of him and some colleagues with their ‘ambulance’ – an open cart drawn by two horses. His job included picking up broken bodies and the body parts of those killed in action. No-one understood the trauma of fulfilling this role, which affected him greatly: there was no NHS support for him or his comrades. One of his sisters, despite a TB hip and wearing heavy metal calipers, gave her life to nursing, becoming a Queen Alexandra Nurse.

Whilst an interest in health and healing was sparked by the role models of my antecedents, all Christians, it was my faith that inspired my joining the British Red Cross, training as a voluntary aid detachment (VAD), ambulance driver and finally an instructor. Years of mandatory nursing hours were spent on wards at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital and the then St Mary’s Chest Hospital.

As a Christian, I believe that good health and healing means ‘wholeness’ – a soundness of body, mind and spirit. The three component parts of a human being cannot be separated – they are but different attributes of the whole person. The Christian Ministry of Healing, in which I have been involved for many decades, understands ‘health’ in the broadest of terms. Health affects individuals at many levels – physical, psychological, social, moral and spiritual. Health relates to families and relationships and extends into our communities at large. The social and work settings in which we live and work impact upon our health. Wholeness is about peace, safety, completeness, prosperity, rest and welfare: health is a part of wholeness. The Christian Ministry of Healing cares about the management of disease, research and mental health but it also reflects upon and is concerned about learning through suffering; it cares about the social pressures that generate illness and will strive for justice.  For the Christian, the want of wholeness is an expression of God’s love in our social environment, which we chaplains try to express in our pastoral and spiritual support for all members of EEAST staff, volunteers and their families, regardless of anyone’s faith, culture or sexual orientation.

Moving from early inspiration of being ‘born free’, my faith and thought processes have grown, deepened and matured over the years. I thank the NHS for delivering both my children safely, despite complications, and for saving my own life in 1990. Most of all, I thank God that I continue to be free and able to give back to society and the NHS by freely offering my services as the Lead Chaplain to EEAST.

On behalf of the Chaplaincy Team and the churches and parishes we represent, thank you for the gift of the NHS and to all its staff and volunteers for their dedication, care and skills in keeping this nation healthy. In particular, I would thank each and every one of you for your professionalism, compassion and constant hard work. Please accept our heart-felt gratitude: we hold a deep admiration and respect for you as you go about your ambulance duties, some mundane, others nasty and traumatic. Whatever your faith or none, we hold you in our personal prayers, asking the Lord to bless, keep and protect you as you go about your daily business, especially those on the front line.

Published 5th July 2018

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