While Britons have been publicly sharing their love and support for NHS by decorating their exteriors and windows with pictures and slogans to express their gratitude for National Health Service staffers – the frontline fighters against novel coronavirus in the country – the institution is under never seen before strain as it grapples with the disease. The public support and praise for the virus is also unprecedented as it stretches to it limits to serve the citizenry but the organization is clearly struggling to maintain itself in the difficult times.
However, the praise and gratitude towards the institution is nothing new with Britons in various surveys in past showed their love and respect for the NHS identifying it as a force that makes them proud. The tributes were aimed at National Health Service during 2012 London Summer Olympics opening ceremony featuring an entire musical number dedicated to the NHS health workers, doctors and nurses.
“There is this huge level of deep-rooted affection for the institution and pride in it and what we’re seeing now is that affection being manifested,” Dan Wellings, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, a healthcare think tank, told Cable News Network.
“It is not in data or numbers and evidence, it is feelings and emotions and all the things that people cannot explain very well,” said Laura Duffell, when asked about what is the reason behind this affection for the service by the public who never cease to show their love for the organization in public opinion surveys. Dufell works for NHS and claimed that she would not serve anywhere else.
“It feels like you are part of a family in all the different hospitals and all the different teams that I have worked in, the team spirit is always there.”
The government is stimulating those emotions to implement the social distancing measures and is addressing the public through very clear messages: Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. The catchphrase is available on every leaflet floated by the government in the drive to reinforce the lockdown. The message is written even on the dais from which the country’s top officials address the nation.
Many other European countries also have public health systems of their own but no other medical care system has earned the NHS’s level of respect across continent.
“The NHS is seen as something that we all have in common, something that we need never question, something we don’t need to plan for,” said Cal Flyn, an author and journalist. Flyn collaborated with The Welcome Collection, a museum and library dedicated to health, on a major project marking the NHS’s 70th anniversary in 2018. “The fact that we don’t need to pay for health insurance, and yet it is always there for us, especially at our lowest moments, makes it very morally unquestionable. It is seen as a force of pure good,” Flyn added.
The national organization becomes particularly vulnerable to collapse because of the reduced funding in past, failure in addressing of staffing shortages and increased demand of healthcare in the wake of COVID-19. Accoding to British Medical Association, nearly half of the doctors working in high-risk environment are facing serious shortages of PPEs and medical equipment while thousands of nurses serving in London cannot pay their rents.
“But perhaps on the other side of the coronavirus it will give them, their unions and so on enough ammunition to campaign for more money. I think there would be a lot of public support for that,” Flyn was hopeful.
Duffell, who is in RCN, the nursing union and is not very optimistic, said: “I would love to see the government investing in the National Health Service to the extent it should, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen, I don’t see it changing which is a big big shame.”