Northern Lights: How can we fund the NHS for 70 more years and educate the young?

In a few weeks time we will be celebrating the 70 th anniversary of one of our nation's most treasured institutions - the NHS. The 5 th of July 1948 saw the birth of an institution that has probably touched every person and family in the country over the last seven decades.

Thursday, 31st May 2018, 10:22 am
Updated Thursday, 31st May 2018, 10:27 am
THe Olympic Legacy Park is opened on the site of the old Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield by former sports minister Richard Caborn

Locally, The Telegraph and its sister paper, The Star, will mark this important milestone by “Celebrating the NHS at 70” with a number of articles telling the stories of local people who have been supported by the NHS and its impact on Sheffield City Region.

What is interesting, when you look back, is how the three founding principles of the NHS have stood the test of time;

-Services were provided free at the point of use

-Services were financed from Central Funds

-Everybody was eligible for care

Announced by the then Health Minister Aneurin Bevan in 1948, it was to become the envy of the world.

Even though the challenges facing the NHS in 1948 were very different to those facing it today, the NHS has adapted and changed to the prevailing demands within the framework of the original principles laid out by Bevan.

Great advances have been made with the health and wellbeing of the nation through the development of services, new technologies and the use of data in a creative and productive ways.

But, with an ever growing and aging population, expectations from the public becoming more demanding and the integration of health and social care services, the next 70 years of the NHS will need to be different if it is going to continue to be a world leader.

On reflection, in a small way these were the issues raised back in July 2005 when we won the right to stage the 2012 London Olympics. How could we develop a legacy that would impact the health and wellbeing of the nation? How could we use the power of the Olympics and elite athletes to change behavior and effect an improvement in our lifestyles?

These were not unreasonable questions when we were about to commit around £10 billion of public funding, matched by billons of IOC and private sector monies.

Back in 2005, the IOC was also mindful that staging the Olympics would need to yield more than just a few weeks of showcasing some of the world’s best sports people. It would need to deliver tangible assets. That is why in the bidding process in 2005, legacy appeared more prominently and carried more weight in the final decision than ever before.

From London 2012 came the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM), an IOC approved Olympic legacy project delivering research, education and clinical services in sport, exercise and physical activity from three hubs across England – London, Loughborough and Sheffield.

In Sheffield the NCSEM is operational at three sites across the city – Graves Health and Sports Centre, Thorncliffe Health and Leisure Centre and Concord Sports Centre – and the £14 million Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre being built on Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is an additional development of the legacy to make Sheffield a healthier city.

The proposals we have in front of Government for the Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Research and Innovation Centre and the Centre for Child Health Technology is a further extension of the role Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is playing in forging a new approach to the health of the nation.

Seventy years ago, when Bevan announced the formation of the NHS, the health challenges were very different than those of today.

Today’s challenges are how we can move to prevention rather than cure and take more responsibility for our own wellbeing.

Bad diet, inactivity and obesity are as much the cause of ill health today as was malnutrition, poor diet and bad housing when the NHS was born.

So, the big debate around the 70 th anniversary of the NHS is inevitably going to be how do we fund it for the next 70 years? Running alongside this, is the debate that here in Sheffield we are making a major contribution to in terms of how we change people’s lifestyle, habits and culture.

How can we educate the next generation to become more aware of the impact of lifestyle and health?

Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is unique in the world in that in a single location it provides education at the Oasis Academy, new skills at the University Technical College and research in the three centres, all based upon transferring the knowledge gained from the sports science of elite athletes and professional sports.

But Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is more than that; it is an environment that people can enjoy seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year on the 100m track, outdoor run routes from 1-6km, a cricket square on the Don Valley Bowl or just walking around the green spaces and the canal.