I’VE spent the last week on the couch with kidney trouble – the second time in six months. When you have little else to do other than stare at the ceiling, you have a lot of time to think. Feeling less than myself, naturally my mind shifted towards illness, wellness and the great machine that is the NHS and how often it comes to the rescue.

I dipped in and out of radio election coverage, read the half-hearted postal pamphlets just two of my candidates bothered to put through the door. Each claiming a single issue to be central to the vote: “Only we can stop Labour”; “Only we can prevent another independence referendum”.

Both completely failing to address the multitudinous pressing issues that really matter to most voters. When addressing constituents at large, universality surely matters? Which got me thinking – what is more universal and levelling than our health?

The NHS is something I’ve rather taken for granted. I considered it to be so deeply integral to Britain – its values and our way of life – that I spent most of my life believing it would be around forever. That it was untouchable. It’s been a sobering realisation over the last few years of Tory rule that it’s not sacrosanct, and is as open to a swing of the axe as anything else we might expect them to put on the chopping block.

Just this week a video surfaced of the Prime Minister telling Andrew Neil she agrees with the Naylor Review, an independent report recommending the sale of surplus NHS land and hard-to-maintain buildings to reinvest in reforms. “Surplus” being doublespeak here; as anti-privatisation activists quickly point out, its application to services closed due to staff shortages and funding shortfalls, victims of the incumbent Tory Government’s strangling of services, underfunding, cuts and asset sales.

If the Tories have proven one thing during their current tenure, it’s that NHS is not safe in their hands.

Even doctors and nurses are taking to Twitter, using #PublicDuty to warn us what lies ahead.

And so, with a question mark hanging over the future of this vital public service, I tried to imagine my life so far without it, and couldn’t. The NHS was with me after two dogs attacked me when I was six – for acute medical care, follow-up procedures and counselling for PTSD. The NHS was with me when I broke my wrist skating. The NHS was with me during a complicated twin pregnancy and emergency C-section. It was with me when I was admitted to a perinatal mental health unit with PPD.

It’s been with me through allergies, keeps an EpiPen and inhaler in my bag, teeth in my head and my vision in good health.

The NHS was with my grandparents through heart problems and cancer, for loved ones through end-of-life care. It was there for my son’s milk allergies and for my friend’s reconstructive services. The truth is, without it I wouldn’t be here – and neither would the people I love. The same is true for most: without access to free, universal care, our lives would be very different.

Free healthcare is something so many of us take for granted without realising it. When you start to look underneath, at the cogs, cams and cranks that keep the NHS in motion, it becomes ever more impressive. The sheer number of people involved to make this huge thing work is astounding. Some 1.3 million people make up the workforce that keeps us healthy.

When you think about what Nye Bevan achieved in 1948, bringing medical staff of all types together under one roof, making access to care free at the point of entry for all, it’s clear that was an incredible victory for not just him, but for humanity. To put the needs of the many before the bank accounts of the few is something that seems almost seems inconceivable in today’s market economy. Would we be so outwardly-minded now as to create something that proudly upholds our social obligation to each other as fellow humans? Would we still put people first in this way?

Set against today’s political milieu, it sounds like utopian fantasy – yet it’s worked for almost 70 years.

The NHS is a reminder to us all that there was a time when people mattered more than anything else. We could all do with reflecting on that. Maybe then we’ll reacquaint ourselves with the idea that during our short time on this blue speck, we can and should leave things a little better than we found them for those who come after.

Aneurin Bevan once said we should take pride in ourselves because, “despite our financial and economic anxieties, we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world – put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration”. This is what we stand to lose if we deface the NHS – our civility. Further neglecting it is a clarion call to the profiteers who are ready to make money from our taxes. To dismantle it is a clear renunciation of the desire to put citizens first and an unambiguous desire to deface our most important institution it for profit.

Whoever we are, we’ve all been touched by the NHS. Thinking of what we stand to lose in the face of what we’ve gained is a sobering thought. It was a gift handed on to us by our parents and grandparents, who believed in the civilising idea of universal free healthcare for all. We must look after it the way they and every generation since has looked after it for us.

It is the brilliant diadem atop the corpse of a decaying Britain.

It must be protected at all costs.

If there is a single issue to sway my vote on Thursday – now, more than ever – this is it.