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NHS: how does it work?

I Don't Get It


Sky Kids FYI presenter Tilly finds out what the NHS is and what it does for society.

It’s no exaggeration to say that all of us, at some point in our lives, have relied on the services of the National Health Service. From the moment we’re born to the day we have an accident, the NHS is always there to care for us, and to help us get better.

In fact I owe my life to the NHS… when I was 15 months old, I contracted meningitis. My parents were told I was unlikely to survive but thanks to the skill of the NHS team. I was able to pull through, even if it did mean losing my hands.

The NHS was created back in 1948. Here’s a picture I found of the then Health Minister Aneurin Bevan with the first ever patient – 13 year old Sylvia Diggory in Manchester.

And look what I found in the archives of the British Film Institute… a 1948 cartoon to introduce us to the NHS.

I think it’s fair to say that the NHS holds such a special place in our hearts because it’s always there to care for us whenever we need it… whether we’re young or old, rich or poor.

If you visit a doctor… it’s free. If you need an operation it’s free… And if you need an ambulance after an accident, it’s free…….Or is it?

Well, I’ve looked into it for more info … and it’s not quite as simple as that. Someone needs to pay for all those hospitals, doctors and nurses, right? So let’s get an expert to fill us in in on the details..

Dr Alex George: Well the NHS is actually funded by taxes. So when you get paid, some of that money goes to the government which in turn goes to fund the National Health Service.

Around £150 billion pounds goes to the NHS each year

Tilly: So does all that tax give the NHS enough money to pay for everything that it needs? Well, some patients do have to wait a long time for operations. And some medicines are judged to be too expensive for the NHS. On a more personal level, my bionic arms weren’t available on the NHS… so my parents had to find the money to pay for them from a private lab.

Dr Alex George:  The thing is treatments, staffing, and the service is quite expensive. We’ve got a big population and a lot of people to look after. The demands on these services keep going up so we have to make sure the NHS is funded properly so they can do the amazing job that it’s doing.

Some people choose to pay for private healthcare rather than using the NHS because they think it will get them quicker treatment or a better standard of care.

Tilly: And other people think that those who can afford it should be asked to make a contribution towards their healthcare, with the money being used to make the service better for everyone.

Dr Alex George: But what’s not in doubt is that the NHS is one of the most cherished organisations in the UK.

Tilly: And all of us owe a huge debt of gratitude to the courageous work of the NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic, saving thousands of lives in the most difficult of times.


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