Everyone in this country has a personal story to tell about the NHS. Some are good, some are bad.
The health service matters to us all – not just because we need it at times of crisis and fear, but because the way we have organised it, and the way we pay for it is a profound statement about who we are in this country and what we value.
The writer Harry Leslie Smith put it best: “The creation of the NHS made us understand that we were in truth our brother’s keeper.”
This week, i will be reporting on the NHS as it approaches a major crossroads in its 66-year history. Recession and austerity have taken their toll on a health service that, in an ideal world, would continue to grow and grow in line with our population, and the increasing needs of our ageing society.
All three major political parties have now pledged to protect or increase NHS spending in England over the next parliament.
But the scale of the challenge is such that none of the promises goes far enough to allow the NHS to carry on doing what it does now, on the scale it does it, and with its current principles of free, universal care intact.
We need a national debate. How much are we willing to spend on the NHS? Do we want it to keep on changing and improving to meet our needs? If so, are we willing to pay more? These are the big questions we will be looking at this week.
Alongside our reports, some of i’s writers will be telling their own NHS stories, starting with Assistant Editor Fran Yeoman’s moving account of losing her father within weeks of her first child being born. Throughout the week, we want to hear readers’ stories, too. The NHS belongs to you – so tell us what you think of it.