Happy Anniversary!

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It’s hot, and our regular supply of posts from you, dear readers, seems to have melted away. But we can’t let today go by without acknowledging the 70th Anniversary of the NHS.

Of course, we can’t do it justice in a short piece, but we can be proud that, for all its faults, we do still have a system that is not only valued at home but also admired by other countries. Indeed, many nations now have systems of health care which are universal and free at the point of delivery, even if they differ in the methods used to achieve that.

Yes, of course there are anomalies in the NHS – dental care and prescriptions are often not free, social care is still not integrated properly with medical care, treatment is rationed by Clinical Commissioning Groups, too many services are outsourced.

But what has always astonished me is the fact that this blatantly socialist project, vilified by many at the time (including the majority of doctors), is now seen as an essential component of British life by people from across the political spectrum. And what saddens me is that the American right still don’t understand why we love it, and have dismantled the progressive systems that Obama carefully constructed.

The challenge over the last 70 years has been for the NHS to keep in step both with research and with societal changes, and that challenge will go with it into the future.

So it is appropriate that Vince Cable has chosen today to highlight quite a niche subject – access to fertility treatment for female couples.  He has written to Sir Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, about ‘shared motherhood’. This is a treatment that involves one partner donating an egg which is then carried by the other partner, so that both women are physically involved. At the moment it is only available privately at a cost of £6000 per cycle.

Vince wrote:

The emotional pull of shared motherhood is clearly strong and should be an opportunity for all female couples, not just those who can afford it.

We are marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the NHS – but we cannot describe this as a universal system if, even unintentionally, poorer same sex couples do not have equal opportunities to have children.

At the earliest opportunity, please review your guidance and update it to make a specific provision for three cycles of treatment for reciprocal IVF to be made available on the NHS. Such guidance would put shared motherhood in line with similar processes for couples trying for children.

And while you are about it, please end the regional inequalities in access to fertility treatment for all couples.

So, Happy Anniversary NHS, and may you enjoy many, many more.

PS. NHS is one of the very few acronyms/initialisations that I permit when editing Lib Dem Voice. I only allow through those that are known by all our readers, such as BBC, ITV and, er, …

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames and is a member of Federal Conference Committee.