5 July 2023 marks 75 years of service for the NHS, the first universal health system to be freely available to all.
Over the last 75 years, the NHS has come a long way and it's safe to say that it touches many of our lives in more ways than one.
This is particularly true for those living with a long-term health condition. We know that for the majority of people with Parkinson’s, the NHS and the healthcare professionals that form part of the Parkinson’s multidisciplinary team, play a key role in their Parkinson’s journey.
For many this will be one of the 512 Parkinson’s nurses working across the UK, but it may also include receiving expert care and support from a physiotherapist, speech and language therapist, pharmacist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist and several other professionals.
Across the Parkinson’s Excellence Network we collaborate with the NHS in many different ways. This includes helping to develop our online learning and courses such as our induction programmes for new nurses or therapists, joining us at one of our regional or specialist hubs' networking events or being on the steering group for one of our 4 national priority programmes. You can read more about our national priority programmes here.
Another example of long-term collaboration with the NHS is the UK Parkinson's Audit. Over the last 14 years, we have seen the number of participating NHS services in the audit significantly increase. Just 41 centres who provided elderly care or neurology services took part in the first audit in 2009, compared to 506 services from across the UK taking part in the most recent 2022 audit. Read the 2022 audit here.
Commenting on our collaborative relationship with the NHS, Dr Rowan Wathes, Associate Director of the Parkinson's Excellence Network, said:
“We really couldn’t carry out our work in the Excellence Network without the support, expertise and involvement from health and care staff working in NHS Parkinson's services. We are proud to have funded almost two thirds of all Parkinson's specialist nurse posts in the NHS and of our new programme that funds allied health professional posts.
"On behalf of all of us at Parkinson’s UK, I'd like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to all of the incredible NHS professionals who provide unwavering dedication, care and commitment to people with Parkinson's, everyday.”
Reflections from the Excellence Network Clinical Leadership Team
We also spoke to a few members of our Clinical Leadership Team who shared their own personal reflections of what it means to work in the NHS.
Fiona Lindop, Specialist Physiotherapist at the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust and Clinical Lead for Therapy said:
"Having worked in the NHS as a physiotherapist for 45 of its 75 years I have seen many changes over the years, but it remains a special and essential institution in our nation.
"Despite its many challenges, one of the most amazing things about the NHS is that it offers free healthcare at the point of need to all who need it. The current challenge is ensuring people get it when they need it.
“It is my hope that the long waiting lists and workforce shortages will be comprehensively addressed to ensure that the NHS continues to be there for all of us in the years ahead and that all those living with Parkinson's will have access to multidisciplinary teams with expertise in Parkinson's."
Professor Richard Walker, Consultant Physician at North Tyneside General Hospital and Joint Clinical Director, has also worked in the NHS for over 40 years. He explained:
“I was particularly lucky to be asked to set up a multidisciplinary Parkinson’s service when I first started as a consultant, at a time when such services were comparatively rare.
"It has been wonderful to see the development and improvement of services for people with Parkinson’s across the UK and I often say to my patients that if you are going to have Parkinson’s then the UK is probably the best place to have it.
"Despite all of the current problems I do feel optimistic for the future of the NHS which is still seen as a major priority by most people.”
Like Richard, our other joint clinical director, Professor Camille Carroll, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience and Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Newcastle University, is also hopeful for the future of NHS services and the opportunity for innovation:
“The NHS, like general society, has changed considerably in the years since its inception. The challenges facing both seem ever-increasing and at times insurmountable.
"However, with every challenge comes an opportunity, with every success another challenge. This cycle drives innovation, improvement and development of services.
"The rate of change is increasing, with consequent demands on workforce, processes and infrastructure that need to keep pace. However, despite the pressures, the founding NHS principles of equity, quality, free at the point of delivery and universality remain as strong today as they were then.
“As a single healthcare system that unites us all, the NHS represents a unique opportunity to drive the development of innovations that will impact understanding of health and disease for the benefit of society, not only in the UK, but across the world.”