Partnership Working in the NHS

The NHS reaching 60 is something that everyone in Scotland should take immense pride in. As commentators and politicians continually remind us, the NHS is a defining feature of life in the UK.

And the NHS is a particular source of pride for all trade union and professional organisations. Above all, it is a human service: people caring for other people, and different parts of the service working together in partnership. Members of our trade unions and professional organisations have been instrumental in the huge leaps forward in care and the population's health that the NHS has brought about.

Our members have been in it from the start, and to this day.

The NHS provides security and peace of mind; a certainty that you will be treated regardless of the cash in your pocket or the credit card in your wallet.

This is what distinguishes our system from those in other countries where only the people that can afford to be treated get the care they need.

Of course, so much has changed since 1948, and the NHS has proved remarkably good at adapting. But the essential values and aspirations that held sway in 1948 are still relevant today: care that is free at the point of need, accessible to all, and comprehensive. These, and not greed or personal wealth, are what continue to motivate trade union members that form the backbone of the NHS.

After all, health workers are all potentially patients as well. Everyone will use the NHS at some point in their lives, so staff want to see improvements as much as everyone else. And there have been massive improvements, particularly in recent years with proper investment and an engaged workforce transforming the care that, for example, cancer, heart and stroke patients receive in Scotland. Changes that make staff proud and for which they deserve their share of the credit.

And finally, it is this pride in the NHS and the desire to retain peace of mind for future generations that motivates the trade unions' campaigning in Scotland: against those that wish to move away from free, comprehensive services, and against attempts to break down the collaborative ethos of the NHS with market reforms. Markets that are not bound by compassion, but by the desire to make money.

Instead, as it moves into its next 60 years, the pursuit of fairness and equality must remain the key goals for NHS Scotland and all those that work in it.

John Gallacher
Regional Officer, Unison

Michael Fuller
Regional Officer, Unite the Union

Nurse and patient. 
Credit: NHS Photo Library