I DOUBT there is anyone who hasn’t had a full range of experiences with our National Health Service and who could talk for some time about theirs, or those of their family and friends. from a range of views.

We all have stories to tell from birth to grave, with experiences often being intimate, private, and highly sensitive. These can shape us and often are our most stressful and life-changing moments. They often require specialist support and nurturing with the medical attention to match.

Surely these should not come with a price tag – these are human needs and rights should be attached to that. I have American friends living in sheer terror at what cost could await them for simple medical requirements. One had a birth experience which was life-threatening because of the lack of affordability. I even heard that there’s a charge to hold your own baby added on the hospital bill.

Ultimately, the one thing that most agree on in the UK is that healthcare should be a fundamental human right and free to access at the point of service.

I had a couple of difficult births which resulted in emergency Caesarean sections and blood loss and if it wasn’t for the quick-minded and well-trained medical professionals, neither myself nor my sons would be here.

I have also experienced that care and professionalism from staff at the end of family members’ lives. The dedication and support I witnessed as varying scenarios unfolded was what got me and others through day to day.

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The staff, who are often referred to as angels, are there when we feel angels are needed. Whether faith is involved or not, the symbolism of an angel is what often comes to a person’s mind when life becomes so precarious that we reach out to someone who can save us or guide us through.

This glorifying is understandable, but we don’t have actual angels, we have highly-skilled professional people doing their jobs.

I also see another side, where people have felt that they have been let down, gatekept from services until the point of no return for treatment, devastating them and their loved ones – the battle to be heard and taken seriously, and the judgment of life’s circumstances meaning that pleas for help went unheard or ignored.

I have seen a whole system be blamed for the mistakes of an individual. I have also seen both sides of a complaint between the NHS and a patient where both were right in their stance, but circumstances were against them.

Sometimes not one person is to blame. It’s so important to distinguish between malicious intent and circumstances where a series of unfortunate events unfold to create a perfect storm. Blame culture doesn’t leave much room for vulnerable reflections. If we could be free of the fear of blame, I wonder how much more honest and open to change we could all be?

Life is just not black and white or good and bad and neither are people or most institutions.

What really matters is ensuring openness when we identify failings and looking what can be done to make improvements.

If we have people and systems which want the best for something and go all out to pull in as much expertise, look at best practice and really work hard to get things right, surely that’s what is fundamentally important?

We are not perfect, and our world will never be perfect, but we should we always strive towards the best outcomes and processes. That’s hard work indeed in normal circumstances but becomes even more difficult when unprecedented challenges come our way.

All of our services came under extreme pressure during the pandemic. It was a devastating time in history on a global scale, so to think we can move on within months, never mind years is incomprehensible.

It’s not just the impact on the NHS itself as an institution but on its staff, the mental toll of working in conditions and pressures many have not and will not see gain in their lifetimes.

All through the pandemic, I wondered when the UK Government was going to use its borrowing powers to invest in the NHS. Surely, I thought, it wasn’t that incompetent or reluctant to help a public service that it wouldn’t do so?

When was the clapping going to turn into pounds and when was an old man walking with his zimmer to raise money going to be unnecessary? Never it seems. The fundamental need to go all out for the NHS wasn’t a priority.

If only Scotland had the borrowing powers, I know our Scottish Government would have demonstrated more common sense and humane priorities. But we have a fixed budget, so ultimately, we must decide – what gives so something can take?

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All this pressure and we had a Brexit calamity right in the middle of it, causing a huge labour shortage in the NHS. This was and still is a political choice. The UK Government has never prioritised the NHS. We hear lip service but where are the actions?

The NHS is devolved but make no mistake – the choices made by the UK Government directly impact on Scotland. Despite those impacts we have some of the best performance stats in the UK, record investment, bursaries for nurses, free prescriptions and much more.

We have bespoke policy in Scotland with an ongoing commitment to never charge for services but ultimately we do not have the power or levers to conjure up extra cash.

For now, I take comfort that our Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is fighting for our NHS and striving to ensure its survival, unlike his UK Government counterparts. Independence can’t come quickly enough – it’s a health issue.