My Lords, I was in this Chamber when the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, then Minister of Health, saved the life of a noble Lord who collapsed in the debate. I congratulate him on all his wonderful and inspiring work. I declare an interest, as the National Health Service saved my life when I broke my back in 1958.
I celebrate the 70 years of the NHS, but I feel that safety in medicine should be the top priority. Without good communication and leadership, the patient can be left in limbo. Last week, I spent two-and-a-half days in St Thomas’ Hospital with an infection. It brought home to me the hugeness of the NHS and the pressure that it is under. The nurses I met were all agency nurses, and I understood their reasons for that, but I never saw a sister so answers were not forthcoming. I left wondering what Florence Nightingale would have thought. There were some charming young doctors. One of them told me she had had problems since Brexit and was thinking of leaving. This is tragic when they are so badly needed. The Government need to work very hard on providing a competent NHS workforce across the UK, with good communication between hospitals and the community.
When injuries were expected from Normandy, a specialised spinal unit for the military was set up at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. In 1948 when the National Health Service was born, civilians with spinal injuries were admitted, and having specialised treatment and rehabilitation free at the point of need made all the difference for them. Stoke Mandeville is also celebrating the 70th anniversary of the paraplegic games this year. They were founded by Sir Ludwig Guttmann who said that sport helped to rehabilitate patients. The games became the Paralympics of today. I cannot stress enough the importance of specialised treatment centres for many rare conditions. Their specialised teams of staff and drugs can save and extend life.
Our NHS must find watertight systems to safeguard patients and protect whistleblowers who may suspect and expose dangerous procedures. Safety is of the utmost importance. The duty of candour should become part of our health and social care culture.