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Today marks the 70th birthday of the National Health Service. What a wonderful thing! And though I probably have more experience with the NHS than most, I think we are all very lucky to have it.

Since being diagnosed with arthritis in 1993, I’ve had a lot of medicine. I worked out the cost to the NHS of one of these medicines to be around £15,000, but I think the actual amount spent on me is probably closer to £30,000. Maybe even £40,000.

Then there’s the regular appointments with my rheumatologist. Let’s say every appointment takes 15 minutes, and estimate that I was seen four times a year until I was 18 and twice a year since then. That’s almost 24 hours of specialist care. But it’s actually more, because when you’re having a flare-up, you need a lot more appointments – and they take a lot longer than 15 minutes!

Over the years I’ve also seen physiotherapists, dietitians, occupational therapists, orthotists, radiographers, orthopaedic sugeons, GPs, phlebotomists and ophthalmologists (yes, you can get it in your eyes too). There’d be no way I could count all of these hours up, but in the last year alone I have received more than 20 hours of care with some of these specialists.

I’ve had splints, bath boards, fancy can openers, exercise bands, exercise plans, wheelchairs, crutches, shoe inserts, long handled shoe horns, tights and sock-putter-onners (not the official name), and countless other home adaptations and aids.

That’s not including the surgeries I’ve had. Two ulnar nerve decompressions and a hip replacement can’t come cheap. There’s also the steroid injections I’ve had while under general anaesthetic, and the (admittedly) fewer I’ve had while awake.

The hours of waiting in phlebotomy or pharmacy; the occasional surgeon with a questionable bedside manner; the MSSA decolonisation washes; the time I was over-prescribed steroids and no one noticed for two weeks. I wouldn’t change a thing, because if I lived somewhere that didn’t have healthcare free at the point of delivery, my life would be completely different.

Without the treatments, care and advice I have received over the past 25 years, I wouldn’t have my independence or the quality of life I have now. I also wouldn’t have my shiny new hip – which is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me – but more on that later.

So, happy birthday to the NHS. I feel very, very lucky to have you. Here’s to another 70 years – and hopefully, like this guy, I’ll still have the same hip! 

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