During the lockdown, like many others around the country, I was always on a mission to find something to do at home. With an incurable book-buying habit and not enough time to properly read them all due to my A-Levels, the endless stretch of time ahead of me presented itself as the perfect opportunity to re-read some of the books on my bookshelf.

As an aspiring medic, there is no surprise that I have been engrossed in the utterly unique genre of ‘medical’ memoirs and reads. For me, these books were full of deeply complex and fascinating stories- complete with an abundance of emotion.

From my first purchase, Fragile Lives – a memoir exploring the work of the pioneering heart surgeon Stephen Westaby – to my most recent read, Dear NHS by Adam Kay, every book has been a whirlwind of story, character and the complex nature of mankind.

In the middle of a pandemic, where a huge number of lives in Britain owe it to the hard-work of the healthcare professionals who have risked their lives for us every day, reading such books have had a profound impact on me. When I re-read some of those books with a calamity in the backdrop, it made me stop, reflect and think.

They made me value our NHS more than ever.

These books have reiterated the utmost importance of the NHS in current society – and with a second wave on the horizon, it seems as if it needs to be valued more than ever.

There are so many books out there that if I were to discuss all of them, this article would never be finished. Nonetheless, there are two magnificent reads which, in my opinion, sum up the vital nature of our healthcare system in a country which has a pandemic ravaging through it.

Throughout lockdown, we saw our communities come together to appreciate the work of our key workers. From the weekly claps and raising money through virtual raffles, to rainbows and signs being hung in the windows, there is no doubt that the efforts of our incredible key workers have been recognised amongst the general public.

However, for me, these books are a constant homage to the work of doctors and nurses in this country, no matter who they are or where they have come from. They are a constant source of appreciation of the true reality of such a tough, gruelling and often difficult job. These books have reminded me that the NHS is special: it has helped the 66 million people in this country, and continues to do so under the huge strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this crisis, we were reminded that the NHS is available to all – whether they live in Buckingham Palace or on a bench in a park. It is an institution that doesn’t discriminate except on the basis of clinical need. Anyone with worsening COVID-19 symptoms could go into hospital and receive the very best of care – without any sort of price tag.

In some countries in the world, ‘healthcare’ is synonymous with ‘expensive’. In this country, healthcare is synonymous with the terms ‘equally’ and ‘free’. A book which reiterates this simple yet powerful fact is Dear NHS, compiled by Adam Kay (author of multi-million bestseller This is Going to Hurt).

A series of experiences by the likes of Dame Emma Thompson, Graham Norton, Miranda Hart and many other household names, this book ultimately tells us: the NHS is our single greatest achievement as a country.

For instance, in his chapter, Steven Fry writes, “we in Britain need to remind ourselves from time to time how our individual unextraordinary stories add up to something so highly extraordinary after all. Did we need a pandemic to be reminded?” No matter who you are, no matter what your health needs are, and no matter how much money you have, the NHS is there for you.

“These stories together become a love letter to the NHS and the 1.4 million people who go above and beyond the call of duty every single day – selflessly, generously, putting others before themselves, never more so than now.”

Furthermore, the recent lockdown made me reflect on the utmost importance of our healthcare system in our lives. Without it, we are nothing. Families have healed, repaired and come together to experience life because of the hard-work of healthcare professionals on the frontline. The growing number of COVID-19 cases means that hundreds of thousands of families have, or are going to rely on NHS services soon – whether online, on the phone or in hospital.

What better book to personify the healing nature of the NHS than Flesh and Blood by Stephen McGann, an actor and science communicator. It is a very unique take on the classic autobiography, using several diseases to tell his family history, and to conclude thatwithout the NHS, his family wouldn’t be where they are today. In the wake of the pandemic, many families in this country can echo that sentiment entirely.

With infections rising, partial local lockdowns being reimposed, and a second wave on the horizon, we need the NHS more than ever. It took a ravaging pandemic to remind us that our NHS is a priceless machine, full of whirling cogs working together day and night to keep it afloat. There have been times where the feeling of normality is missed, face-masks and socially distant queues seem overwhelming but necessary.

However, it is important to remember that we are all cogs too, doing our bit to support our communities, and on a larger level, doing as much as we can to support our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. The NHS has always been there for us, now it’s our turn to be there for this valuable institution.

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