Going the extra mile for our NHS

Nikos Savvas, principal at West Suffolk College ANL-160104-110812001
Nikos Savvas, principal at West Suffolk College ANL-160104-110812001
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The 5th of July 1948 heralded the beginning of a new era for Britain; the fruition of a plan to make this country the ‘envy of the world’. It was the day the National Health Service was born.

This much-loved institution began with the opening of Park Hospital, in Manchester, and marked the beginning of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists being brought together under one umbrella organization for the first time.

It was also the culmination of the remarkable ambition to bring good healthcare to everybody free of charge and without prejudice, funded entirely by the country’s taxpayers.

Since that extraordinary day, the NHS has achieved so much, growing and evolving, and undertaking ground-breaking, internationally significant medical research.

It progressed from carrying out its first successful heart transplant in the 1960s, to celebrating the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first ever ‘test tube baby’ the decade after. It has saved countless lives by introducing the breast screening programme in 1988, setting up the Organ Donor Register in 1994, and rolling out nationwide HPV vaccines for teenage girls in 2008 to hugely reduce future cases of cervical cancer.

This amazing service offers gene therapy to cure patients with previously life limiting genetic diseases, is thought to be nearing a breakthrough in preventing Alzheimer’s, and is capable of performing remarkable procedures such as hand transplants.

It is an extraordinary organisation, and we are hugely privileged to call it our own.

Bury St Edmunds is lucky enough to have West Suffolk Hospital as our own local piece of the NHS. Its care has officially been recognised as ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission, and its wonderful staff praised for consistently going ‘the extra mile.

Many of you will be able to testify that it is an extremely friendly place, where my family have always received excellent care, most memorably when my youngest daughter was born which was a very calm, wonderful experience thanks to their care and skill.

Our town is very proud of its hospital and many of us have cause to be very grateful for all that it does. It’s a vital part of our community. However, there is no denying that our outstanding hospital and the NHS as a whole has never been more in need of our support.

One such unit within West Suffolk Hospital is the Paediatric Day Surgery.

The NHS can count, among its achievements, the ever-increasing speed of diagnosis, treatment and recovery, which enables patients, including our children, to go into hospital with less complex conditions for day surgery and be home for their tea. However, even a short trip to the hospital can be a stressful time for the young patient and their family.

The ‘My Wish’ charity aims to make this experience as smooth and stress-free as possible. It is working hard to provide items chosen to make the trip to the hospital less traumatic for young patients by distracting and calming them.

It is for this reason that recently, during a dinner with my wife and a few friends, I signed up for one of the more interesting physical challenges of my life. Our friend mentioned that she was going to run the Suffolk Coastal Marathon. As someone not exactly lacking in competitive spirit, I said, without a moment’s thought, “I would love to do that” and it was official before the night was over.

So here was an opportunity to raise some much needed money for the My Wish charity, and help young patients enjoy a comfortable and calm trip to the Paediatric Day Surgery.

Now there are only a couple of weeks left before the marathon, and it has been a bit of a slog. As a novice runner, I have come to the conclusion that finishing in front of the man in the rhino suit would be a true victory, and failing that, to be honest, if someone is running with a piano strapped to their back I would be chuffed to cross the line beside them!

It’s true, I’ve been inspired by West Suffolk Hospital’s fantastic staff to go ‘the extra mile’ each time I step out of my front door to train, and by the resilient young patients facing surgery every time I feel like giving up. Plus as an added bonus I get to improve my fitness and enjoy some solitude.

When it’s all done, will I miss the training? Will I keep up the training afterwards? I honestly couldn’t tell you. What I do know is that I am looking forward to crossing that finishing line on the 22nd, and celebrating with the man in the rhino suit (if I can keep up!)

You can help me by visiting www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dr-Nikos-Savvas

-- Nikos Savvas is the principal of West Suffolk College, Bury St Edmunds