It’s that time of year again.
Oh, you thought I meant the election?
Well, yes. But it’s also around about the time of year I end up in hospital for a 14 day course of intravenous antibiotics to treat the underlying and continuous infection in my lungs.
By Cystic Fibrosis standards this is nothing; it’s a walk in the park. I’m reminded of this every time I meet my fellow patients in hospital.
I was also in hospital during the Brexit vote last year (and yes, I escaped to go back home and vote). It occurred to me that I’ve probably been in hospital for two of the most significant political decisions in a generation.
Despite voting remain, I understand valid political arguments for leaving the EU. But when I woke up in my squeaky hospital bed on June 24th 2016, I felt nothing but shame and sadness. Every single nurse who came to see me that day was an EU citizen: Spanish, Polish, Portuguese and one Italian. The NHS – the 5th biggest employer in the world – could not survive without them, and they were made to feel unwelcome in this country.
This year, there is a much more complex decision to be made, in the sense that there is no simple YES or NO to tick on a ballot box.
But one issue for me is startlingly straightforward; how much we need our national health service.
Dr Archie Norman was one of the founding members of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, who passed away earlier this year aged 104. This is what he had to say when discussing the great milestones of CF treatment in his lifetime. “Last, but not least, was the advent of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 – we could prescribe drugs without worrying whether the family could afford them, a matter of immense importance in a persistent long-term disease such as cystic fibrosis.”
There may be many countries in the world that sadly can’t afford a health service such as ours, but we – as the 5th or 9th biggest economy in the world, depending on where you get your statistics- are not one of those countries. And there’s no doubt that the future of the NHS depends on our vote tomorrow.
I wouldn’t be here without it, I am sure. There are 15 million people in the UK classed as having a chronic illness, and for so many of them it is more than a figurative lifeline. We owe so much to the system and the people within it that, despite its flaws, help us live healthier, happier, longer lives.
I won’t argue that any one party has got all the answers at this election. The issues are complex and the solutions expensive, but there is no denying that a continued Tory government will be the end of the NHS.
Please, don’t vote for that. Many of us have a lot to lose.