Page last updated at 07:56 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 08:56 UK

'The NHS and I have grown up together'


Susan Banks was one of the first babies to be delivered in the NHS

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Susan Banks was one of the first NHS patients.

Born at home on the day of its inception - 5 July 1948 - Susan, from Newport, Shropshire, has watched it grow, even spending a short time working in it.

She says that although it has its faults, that an NHS free to all patients is definitely something to be very proud about.

"We were living in Worcester when I was born. I had been due in June so my mother was very pleased that I came the day I did," she said.

Home birth

"She got me free and as money was tight it was a big thing.

"I don't know how much it would have cost, but it was always a family story that I got in free.

It was always a family story that I got in free
Susan Banks

"I was born about 1pm and was their first and only child.

"It was a difficult delivery apparently. It was a breech birth."

Susan, a retired primary school teacher, who also spent a very short time as a nursery nurse in the NHS, said her parents always considered her lucky to get free care.

"I was always told I was very fortunate, my parents always compared it with their childhood.

"Somethings I think were better at the start than now, such as the dentist. I always remember having frequent trips for checkups and I don't know whether that is as convenient now.

NHS graphic
As the NHS turns 60, BBC News is giving it a health check. Watch out for reports, features and analysis on TV, radio and the web.

"I had hearing loss as a child and that was always checked up on.

"I grew up in a small village in Cheshire where we moved and there was a good cottage hospital. I had my tonsils out at a very young age, but I had no other health problems."

Susan's next NHS encounter occurred during pregnancy.

She had a straightforward time with the birth of her eldest daughter Lizzie - but her second birth was not such a positive experience.

"My second daughter's birth was both the high point and the low point of my dealing with the NHS," she said.

High point

"The high point was when I was about 12 weeks pregnant in 1979 and they realised I had an ovarian cyst. At about 16 weeks pregnant I was operated upon and was told I had a 50% chance of losing the baby, but I didn't and they treated me wonderfully.

"But later when I had Victoria, at the same hospital, the afterbirth wasn't delivered properly.

"I was sent home and my blood count went dangerously low. I haemorrhaged and was rushed into hospital. I think things were very doubtful and dodgy for a little while.

Nobody in this country has to consider their economic status when they are ill and I think that is vital
Susan Banks

"They had managed to save her and then nearly mess me up afterwards."

Overall although, Susan is happy with the treatment she has had from the NHS.

"I have had the sort of illnesses that all women can get, such as a couple of small gynaecological issues.

"I was really impressed with the standard of care. For one procedure I had day surgery at the local hospital and I thought that was wonderful. I was able to go in the morning and come back in the evening.

"I have an excellent local GP and the GP services have really impressed me. "

Pride in the NHS

However, Susan's family have had a rather more mixed experience of the NHS.

Susan as a baby
Susan as a girl

"My husband was in hospital recently and was most unimpressed. The standards of cleanliness were most unacceptable so his experiences were very poor.

"My younger daughter had her tonsils done in Stafford when she was younger and that was fine and lovely, but she had ME (myalgic encephalitis) as an adult and I think that puzzled the NHS - it took her a while to find anybody to help."

However, the value of the NHS was thrown into sharp relief when her daughter required treatment abroad.

"My eldest daughter Lizzie was in America as a student and fainted and was taken in an ambulance to hospital.

"Fortunately a friend went with her, because the first thing they did when they got her to hospital was to search her handbag for a credit card.

"That really brought it home. She got told quite often in America that our hospitals were way behind the times, but she was able to say 'at least they are free for everybody.'

"I think we are very privileged: the NHS is not perfect and we can all find fault, but nobody in this country has to consider their economic status when they are ill and I think that is vital."

Susan said her two local GP surgeries were fearful of the future, worried that they might have to make way for a much bigger super-surgery under current government plans.

"I went to my local GP recently and pointed out when my birthday was and he said 'I hope you are in a better state than the NHS.'

"But when you are in a service you always think like that.

"From my point of view I think it has got better recently.

"I think money has been put into it and as a patient we are seeing the best of that and it is a healthy state at the moment - or seems to be.

"I feel very fortunate."

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