A&E Consultant celebrates NHS staff on its 75th birthday

Sussex Defend the NHS held a street party outside the ONCA gallery where the quilts are on display yesterday, 05 July to celebrate the 75th birthday of the NHS and NHS staff.

Speaking to Dr Rob Galloway who is an A&E consultant, he said the new build at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton will make a “massive difference.”

He has also developed a hybrid digital workforce planning approach to help with staffing which has been commended by the Care Quality Commission. It’s a hybrid consultant rota which met the Royal College staffing guidelines for emergency medicine and could usefully be adapted and rolled out across the Trust. It means there are no gaps in staffing in A&E medical wards which is a real achievement.

Asked about particular pressures on the A&E department, he said the main problem is social care. Patients can’t get to hospital when they need to and discharge to social care is far too slow.

He also said patients are waiting 12 to 20 days for mental health beds and end up waiting days in A&E. There are enough A&E beds but not enough mental health beds.

Dr Galloway then addressed supporters and said: “I’m an A&E consultant and have worked in Brighton since 2001. It’s not an easy job, but it is one I’m very proud to do.

“Your quilts represent what is so important about the NHS and I see it every day in the work my colleagues (NHS staff) and I do – treating people based on need and not profit.

“I look after a dustman with a broken leg from a worksite injury, in the same way I look after a banker with liver damage from excessive caviar and champagne.

“Despite what is happening, the NHS is the greatest and best value for money insurance policy we have – if we or our loved ones get ill, then we just need to work on getting better and not becoming bankrupt.

“But it is under threat. And it’s at risk like never before. Waiting lists for operations are at their highest levels ever, longer and long waits for beds after being seen in A&E and for the first time since the NHS was formed, life expectancy is starting to fall.

“It can and it must survive and that’s why what you do is so important to fight for its survival.

Dr Rob Galloway and Madeleine Dickens
Dr Rob Galloway and Madeleine Dickens with the NHS quilts

“In July 1948, every household received a letter to explain the creation of the NHS… You are all paying for it, mainly as tax payers and it will relieve your money worries in times of illness.

“The nation rejoiced as the realisation hit and it became apparent that people should no longer die ever again because of their lack of wealth.

Reflecting on the beginning of the NHS, he said: “On 5 July 1948, the keys to Park Hospital in Trafford, Manchester were symbolically handed over to Nye Bevan who took them on behalf of the country…

“The first patient through the doors was a 13 year-old girl name Sylvia Beckingham, who was admitted for a serious liver condition.

“She came from a working-class background and her family could not afford the care she needed.

“Without the NHS, she would have died.

“With it, she survived and went on to live a fulfilling life as a teacher, Mum and by all accounts an amazing piano player.

“She epitomises the NHS’ long and great history.

NHS staff
NHS birthday cake

Dr Galloway said there is reason to hope: “In the last 75 years, infant mortality has fallen from 36 per 1000 births to less than four. Life expectancy has grown for men from 65 to 80 and for women from 70 to 84… (although it has fallen in the last two years.)

“But the way NHS staff deliver care has changed. When the NHS was set up there were 480,000 beds, now there are 120,000. The NHS is there to treat illness.

Explaining how the NHS has changed focus, he said: “In the past it was “fast things” which killed us and which the NHS was there for – trauma and infection.

“But now it’s slower less obvious causes such as neurodegenerative disease, cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic causes such as type two diabetes.

“Much more care, rightly, is done in the community by GPs including care of the elderly: doctors leading the way and preventative medicine and encouragement of public health initiatives (are) rightly becoming more important.

“So as illnesses change, the way in which the NHS works must change.

“Although things have been far from perfect in the NHS, it has always been resilient to the pressures thrown upon it. Now it needs that more than ever.

He said its staff are the backbone of the NHS: “But one thing which is no different is the dedication and devotion of the staff who work in the NHS. The NHS is not its buildings, its drugs or its machines. It’s NHS staff. They work for an institution whose ethos puts patients above all else.

“An institution which leads the world in research, cutting edge care but most importantly humanity.

“But it’s not a given that the NHS is here to stay. It does not have the universal support it had 13 years ago and it’s not cheap.

“It is money well spent, the ethos of doing what’s right for patients rather than profits means tests are arranged when they will change (medical) management, rather than where they allow profits to be maximised.

“This means it’s the most efficient health system in the world – even though it doesn’t feel like that at times. But that efficiency is being damaged by current political direction – you only have to look at what happened when the private sector got involved in PPE and track and trace.

“Yes, it needs reform, but in a way which encapsulates all it stands for. It also needs support and love.

“We need to support it as a best friend would do – with honest and reflective love and not unfettered adulation. Because only then can it reform and grow in the way our nation truly needs it to.

It’s at risk like never before.

NHS heroes

He described morale coming out of the pandemic: “NHS staff are demoralised and struggling. Claps on a Thursday and lights shining on buildings today, can’t stop the brain drain of expertise we are seeing.

“I manage major trauma in my day job. Giving blood is often needed to keep the patient alive. But to save a life, you need to stop the bleeding.

“NHS Workforce management is the same as trauma management.

“There is a real risk that the actual beneficiaries of the new NHS England workforce plan and investment will be the Australian health service.

“The NHS is nothing without NHS staff.

“I know so many doctors, nurses and others who are burnt out and do not think working in the NHS is worth it anymore. The long-term damage to patient care from this is enormous.

Dr Galloway criticised successive governments for under-investment that has resulted in the brain-drain: “The NHS is a brilliant concept which is being utterly mismanaged by our politicians.

“Those of us who work and use and need the NHS are being let down by our political leaders.

“We need new ideas, policies, workforce plans and funding to save the NHS before it’s too late.

“Our NHS, which was formed by heroes of World War Two, may not be there for our children.

“As Nye Bevan said, the NHS will survive as long as there are the folk with the faith to fight for it.

“We will fight it. We have to fight it. We have to be the folk, we have to have the faith and we must fight it.

Otherwise, our children will never forgive us.”

A summary of my three NHS articles to celebrate the 75th birthday of the NHS has been published by Sussex Bylines.

NHS quilts are on show in Brighton today

Two handcrafted quilts go on show today, Saturday 01 July, at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church to celebrate 75 years of the NHS. Supporters came together at 11am to admire the handiwork of 27 people aged from 11 to 82 who sewed the quilts.

On Saturday, the ‘Threads of Survival’ exhibition will be open at the church until 4pm and will run to Monday, 3 July when it closes at 3pm. It will then move to the ONCA gallery near the hospital. (Details below.)


Charlotte Stevens who is a professional quilter, advised on the structural side of how to join the pieces together. She said: “It’s been a wonderful, collective thing to have the chance to work with the group.” Some people who are passionate about the NHS, she said, wouldn’t go on a march but they were keen to sew a piece of the quilt.  There is a history of collective quilting dating back to the AIDS campaign in the 1980s, Charlotte explained.

Mike Aiken is an activist from Sussex Defend the NHS. He said as the NHS approaches its birthday next week, it’s important to do more to raise awareness and find ways for people to get involved. He said: “I think we all forget about the NHS until we are ill and then we find bits of it aren’t there anymore.”

Madeleine Dickens from Sussex Defend the NHS, who organised the event, said the exhibition of the quilts is about celebrating the NHS because the government is driving it into the ground. She said: “The NHS saves thousands of lives every day and undertakes hundreds of thousands of treatments but it’s in a state of disintegration. We need to acknowledge the NHS. Many more people need to become aware of what’s happening and sign the scroll.”

Madeleine also paid tribute to Steve Carne who died earlier this year. He was a very active NHS campaigner and a friend to many in Brighton and Hove. There is a piece of the quilt adorned with a yellow boa in memory of Steve.

Madeleine Dickens
Madeleine Dickens and Paulo Boldrini who organised the exhibition

The Ukrainian Voices Choir from Brighton entertained us by singing some traditional, Ukrainian songs. Most of the singers are refugees who came to Brighton a year ago after the war broke out. Iryna and Kira were manning a stand where people can buy Ukrainian souvenirs and make a donation. They sang their last song called ‘The hope is here’ in Ukrainian and English.  They sang: “Hope is a powerful force that never fades away.”

Louise Bray-Allen who is a Community Mental Health nurse spoke at the exhibition of the quilts about the importance of the NHS. Catching up with me beforehand, she said you can monetise a hip replacement and asked, how can you monetise mental health?

Louise Bray-Allen
Louise Bray-Allen, Community Mental Health Nurse

In her speech, she said: “I’ve seen a lot of changes, a lot of reorganisations over the years but the NHS has taken a phenomenal hammering under the Covid 19 pandemic tragedy. I fear for its future and fear that it won’t reach its 75th birthday without it being effectively privatised by stealth by this brutal government.

“Back in the good old days when a patient needed a hospital bed, a local bed was always found. Now many patients have to be accommodated out of area (mostly in private facilities – at considerable expense.) But more importantly – increasing the distress for that patient – as they are located far from home without any chance of visitors.

“Hospital bed number have been absolutely decimated! The years of Tory austerity plus the ravages of Covid have made this situation much, much worse. Nursing staff are thoroughly demoralised at not being able to provide the quality care we have been trained to deliver. Vacancies are at an all-time high. Where are the next up and coming generation of nurses going to come from? The Tories took the bursaries away and plunged student nurses into huge debt…

Our NHS Heroes

“And what about social care? This still hasn’t been addressed at all… So, the NHS has to provide the safety net for these people at the detriment of care being focused elsewhere in the system.

“The latest insulting pay rise? It’s effectively a pay cut. I certainly didn’t go into nursing to earn a huge salary, but I did naively expect my wages to go up occasionally! People say nursing is a “vocation” but try telling that to the bank manager when the overdraft limit is reached every month… And now some nurses have been forced to use food banks which I find utterly shocking and completely unacceptable.

“This brutal government has taken full advantage of the Covid 19 crisis to slyly give contracts to their friends in the private sector, hoping that people won’t notice, well we have, haven’t we?

“We must resist all attempts at privatisation by stealth.

Steve Carne tribute
Steve Carne tribute

“We must stand together in our unions and local communities, and together we must fight for a decent, well-funded and resourced NHS free at the point or delivery for all. The rich must pay their taxes and that money must be channelled into the NHS.

“I will not be a nurse for a private company – I will not be wearing a red virgin healthcare uniform. I would rather be unemployed than work for a private healthcare provider.

“How can you make a profit out of somebody’s psychological pain? How can you make a profit out of someone suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar?

“The NHS is not dead yet! We must do everything we can to stop the Tories forcing us to have an American two-tier service. We must reject the Tory propaganda that the NHS is broken and needs privatisation. It’s not broken, just under-funded.

“I want to work for a properly funded NHS that does not sell our personal, confidential, medical data to private companies and that upholds the values that Nye Bevan so eloquently expressed in 1948:

“’The NHS will last as long as there are fold left with the faith to fight for it.’ There is fantastic work going on in the NHS. There is the love for the NHS visually represented in these amazing quilts. Let us all keep the faith, join together and fight to cherish and save our NHS.

“I give hope out every day of my working life. There is hope.”

Ukrainian Voices Choir Brighton
Ukrainian Voices Choir Brighton

On 5 July, the Threads of Survival group will be celebrating the NHS birthday with Sussex Defend the NHS. Professor Rob Galloway, an A&E consultant and medical advisor to the NHS Support Federation will be speaking at 10 30am outside the ONCA gallery. The quilts will be displayed in the ONCA Gallery Window, 14 St George’s Place, Brighton BN1 4GB from Wednesday 05 July (NHS birthday) to Monday, 10 July.