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Stop taking health service for granted, first baby born on NHS urges

First baby born on the NHS 75 years ago warns struggling service is being ‘taken for granted’

  • Aneira ‘Nye’ Thomas was born at a minute past midnight on July 5, 1948
  • The 75-year-old said she was ‘worried’ about the future of the service  

Brits must stop taking ‘the NHS for granted’, the first ever baby to be born on the NHS has urged. 

Aneira ‘Nye’ Thomas, who lives in Loughor, Swansea, was born at one minute past midnight on 5 July 1948 in Amman Valley Hospital — the day the national health service was launched. 

But in an interview to mark the 75th anniversary of the health service, Mrs Thomas, who was named after its founder Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan, warned she was ‘worried’ about the future of the NHS.

Young people also ‘need more education’ on the role of the struggling service, she added. 

Aneira Thomas said she feels it is her ‘duty’ to inform people about the NHS

Aneira Thomas, who was the first baby to be born following the formation of the National Health Service in 1948, aged four at her primary school in Cefneithin near Ammanford, Wales 

Marking the 75th anniversary of the NHS, the Prince and Princess of Wales yesterday joined the NHS Big Tea party, held in the wellbeing garden of St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Hosted by NHS Charities Together – the national charity caring for the NHS, the guest list included Aneira Thomas, pioneers in research and those on the frontline tackling Covid

Mrs Thomas said that the service is our ‘national treasure’ and she feels the NHS will still be around in another 75 years.

‘The NHS touches all our lives and we’re all guilty of taking it for granted, even I do at times,’ she said.

Health is a devolved issue, with the Conservative government responsible for the NHS in England and in Northern Ireland in the absence of an executive in Stormont.

Labour are in charge of the NHS in Wales while the SNP have responsibility in Scotland.

Mrs Thomas said: ‘In Wales, we don’t pay for prescriptions and sometimes I’m standing in a chemist and people are complaining about a wait of 10 minutes for prescriptions.

Read more: NHS has made us sicker, claims ex-Health Secretary Sajid Javid as he demands overhaul of ‘frozen in time’ service

‘I feel like screaming “do you realise how lucky we are to have the health care system that we have”?’

She added: ‘The young people today do need more education not to take it for granted. I think [education about the NHS] should start from an early age, in primary school.

‘My mother always was proud of the fact that I was the first baby born into the NHS. 

‘When I was a little girl, I remember hiding behind her skirt when she would say “this is Nye, my national health baby”.

‘It was the talk of the village. It must have been amazing that people could afford healthcare, optical care, dentistry.’

But she warned that shrinking numbers of NHS dentists and changes to how GP surgeries operate have left her worried.  

She said: ‘I do worry now because in the village that I live, you can’t access a dentist without paying and GPs… the interaction isn’t the same.

‘So I do worry about the future.’

It comes as a report by think tank the King’s Fund last week revealed the NHS has fewer beds, scanners and doctors than many developed nations.

The UK also spends less than average on healthcare per person and ‘under-performs significantly’ on key outcomes such as life expectancy and cancer survival.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay today admitted the health service needs to adapt, but said this should be a gradual change rather than a ‘big bang’. 

While Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made tackling NHS waiting lists one of his five priorities, the number of people in England waiting for routine operations has soared to a record high. 

Official figures show 7.4million people were left waiting for operations such as hip and knee replacements at the end of April this year – the highest total since NHS records began in August 2007. 

Earlier this morning, health minister Maria Caulfield also admitted the record waiting list for NHS treatment in England could increase further.

Challenged on the 7.4 million figure, she told Sky News: ‘That probably will go up higher because we are offering more procedures.’

But ‘the length of time people are waiting for their procedures is actually going down and that’s what matters to patients’, she added. 

The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England soared to a record 7.42million (red line) in April, figures show. More than 370,000 people in the queue for routine ops, such as hip replacements, were waiting for more than a year (yellow bars)

NHS funding is has risen sharply in recent years, with a total budget of £152.6 billion in 2022/23, some £28.4 billion more than in 2016/17 at 2022/23 prices. The graph does not reflect the extra £2.4billion pledged by the Government in its long-term workforce plan 

May Parsons, associate chief nurse director for risk governance and compliance at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, who delivered the first ever Covid vaccine in the NHS, said the health service is ‘so immensely important’ in people’s lives 

Yet asked about her connection to the service, Mrs Thomas said: ‘It was there for me the day I was born and will be there for me when I leave this world. It is our safety net isn’t it?

She added: ‘I feel sometimes it’s my duty to speak up and shouted from the rooftops.

‘If I’m in Cardiff, sometimes I sit in Queen Street and can see the statue of Nye Bevan.

‘And we’ve got lots of visitors and they just look and see his name, and I think some people don’t know who he is, but before they leave, they do know because I tell them.’

She said: ‘When my both children were very ill, fighting for their lives, I was in Cardiff and I was looking up at his statue and it made me cry with thanks. It’s is our national treasure.’

It comes as May Parsons, the nurse who delivered the first-ever Covid vaccine in the NHS, also urged Brits to recognise the service as a ‘treasure’ because ‘people don’t know what they have lost until the lose it’.

The associate chief nurse director for risk governance and compliance at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: ‘I would wish people would recognise that it is such a treasure, not everybody has got has got an NHS like we do.

‘We don’t know what we’ve lost until we lose it.’

Ms Parsons, who has worked in the NHS for 20 years after coming to the UK form the Philippines, said the service is ‘so immensely important’ in people’s lives.

She added: ‘Having the insight of being from a country where we didn’t have an NHS, or access to healthcare for everybody, it is such an immeasurable kind of relief for people.

‘It’s something that everybody aspires to have a globally.’

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