July 2018 From The Minister’s Waiting Room
The National Health Service is seventy this month and it has truly touched all our lives. It has certainly touched mine. We often talk about it and some have been known to moan about it but it is one of the wonders of the modern world. No wonder it was celebrated in 2012 at the Olympic Park’s opening ceremony. The NHS has also been sent up by the likes of the Carry On Team and attacked by American politicians. But it does incredible work and sees vast numbers of patients every year..
In John 5:1-15 an engaging account about the Pool of Bethesda is recorded and a man who had been waiting for healing for thirty eight years. The Pool is referred to by a number of scholars as a ‘hospital’. It sounded a desperate place. The locals claimed an angel came and stirred up the water every so often and whoever was first in got the healing. You can imagine the dignified proceedings that would create and yes I am being sarcastic. It would be a terrifying place where those with the world’s sharp elbows would virtually drown everyone else to get healing for their septic thumb etc. The man had no one to help him and thus he sat in this desperate place waiting for the next dose of humiliation.
Jesus comes to him and offers help and he is fixed, what’s more Jesus offers him the help ‘out of hours’. It’s the Sabbath. Later Jesus even offers preventative medicine telling him to sin no more lest anything else befall him. When you read this story and consider the highly unpleasant doctoring that followed in later century’s you can’t help but cry “Praise God for the National Health.”.
It started in Manchester on 5th of July and brought doctors, hospitals, dentists, opticians etc under one umbrella. There was some resistance from the doctors but Aneurin Bevan who lived for its birth pushed through all the remaining barriers. Though he did say of the Consultants (the medical variety) ‘I did stuff their mouths with gold’.
When the NHS started the treatments, possibilities, buildings and equipment were fairly basic. All that changed over the years as breakthrough after breakthrough came along. These were often created in the NHS itself. Everything from identifying DNA structure (1953) to linking smoking to cancer (1954); discovering both CT (1972) and MRI scanners (1980s) and many more revelations. All have sent the annual bill through the roof.
In the late 80s the list of developments changed from medical to administrative ‘achievements’. The first NHS trusts appear; NHS direct started; the first ‘walk in’ centres open. There are still medical wonders like the first hand transplant in the UK but focus moved to delivery and control and it’s essential to ensure the organisation stays afloat.
Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS, once stated: “Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community.” And so the principle of the NHS was established: universal healthcare; free at the point of delivery. It is paid for by taxation. Some have said it relies on a biblical mandate that needs to be kept close to all our hearts. Acts 2:43-45 doesn’t mention specifically healing but it does report one in the next chapter. But here people make a great response to the amazement they find.
“Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” .
Now there is only so much we can do in giving and Bevan could not have imagined the ‘miracles’ that would later fill the hospitals. How much people are willing to pay will define the future for our children and their children. I hope they do not lose what we have had. I hope they keep a healthcare system for all..
Your good health .