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Editorial Friday 5th July 2013: The NHS at 65 - neither shy nor retiring

It's a happy accident of timing that the NHS's 65th birthday falls on a Friday - as working days go, most people's favourite.

The NHS is, as government institutions go, most people's favourite. There are all sorts of politicians' observations we can draw on - from Lawson on the NHS as religion to Bevan's NHS as the best present the British people ever gave themselves.

But I'm going to agree with Comrade-In-Chief Sir David Nicholson's beloved if dentally-challenged NHS Constitution: "the NHS belongs to the people".

When demand pressures traditionally run at about 4% a year, if the NHS is to survive  a decade of flatline funding caused by a global financial crisis due to massive financial industry incompetence and failure, then the NHS has to belong to the people more than ever before.

I think it can, and I think it will.

The era of grip and top-down command-and-control has had its day. It will be replaced by something altogether noisier, and harder to grip.

So much the better. It will at first feel uncomfortably postmodern to put the NHS's workings on the outside. It will be the political equivalent of the Pompidou Centre in Paris: it will look very different to the classical Haussmann approach, which allowed controlling armies to run through quickly. (This is, as the French were later to discover, not necessarily a good thing.)

The future of the NHS isn't what it used to be, and that is almost certainly a good thing given what we are still discovering about its very recent past.

The future is about rediscovering that NHS staff are people, too. The NHS has never had the resources to meet all the demand it finds, and has always run partly on the staff's goodwill. In every NHS organisation, there were people doing more than they had to yesterday, and there will be people doing it today and tomorrow.

I do have a concern for the NHS's future: that this goodwill is getting chronically frayed.

If it frays to breaking point, the the NHS will go and it will not be a good end.

What would be a lovely thing to do to celebrate the 65th birthday of the part of socialism that has remained popular with the British people?

For colleagues throughout and around the NHS to thank one another for their goodwill and extra effort. For patients to understand that even better-paid clinicians and managers work more than their contracts impose, and they do so willingly (if with the odd understandable grumble) to make patient care as good as it could be.

Thank you very much, everybody.

It's our NHS - and that means it's in safe hands.

Have a good day, and a good weekend.