A poem to celebrate 70 years of the NHS

Colin Dardis

To mark the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the NHS and HSC, the Northern Ireland Confederation of Health and Social Care, with support from the Arts Council NI, commissioned a poem by Colin Dardis to celebrate what the NHS means to us all. You can also see the poem here. We are looking forward to the next 70 years with Confidence!


1948: the idea that good health
should be free to all, regardless of wealth;
a vision of comprehensive purpose,
our own unified medical service,
and at its heart, a radical statement:
we will meet the needs of every patient.
2018: when I say N-H-S,
what do these three simple letters suggest?
Nations uniting to heal the nation,
multicultural conglomerations
worth celebrating, worth recognising
just what those letters are symbolising,
from the system esteemed as the world’s best
to the person who answers your SOS.

It’s the locum making calls door to door,
every blue siren you’ve pulled over for,
the donor cards checked in times of distress
when we rise up to think of someone else,
the giving of time, a match located,
blood transfusions, pints donated.
It’s the elderly couple holding hands
in the waiting room, after having scans,
the young couple testing out baby names
in between the scans and the labour pains.
It’s the vigils you make at each bedside
and the staff that take it all in their stride,
the bedrock we turn to in our illness,
that extra pillow while we convalesce.

It’s the bad news broken, thoughts and prayers,
the comfort in knowing that someone cares,
cures written down on a prescription sheet:
take two in the morning; at night, repeat.
It’s the cooks, cleaners, admin staff, porters,
it’s future proofing, from sons and daughters
at break time playing doctors and nurses
to growing up, signing up to courses,
the power to train the next generation
of carers and healers to aid the nation
It’s real life, where the Hippocratic oath
means seven more secured decades of growth.
Larger than us all, yet we all possess
this jewel in our crown, it’s the N-H-S.

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