Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Stories that show the NHS at its best

Often stories about the health service are prefaced by concerns, be it over staffing levels, cuts in facilities or services or lack of funding.

Indeed yesterday this newspaper urged ministers at Stormont to consider establishing a commission to draw up a strategic blueprint for the future of health services here in the light of public spending restraint. But today we are also happy to highlight the expertise that exists in hospitals and other medical facilities.

There could scarcely be two better examples of the dedication of medical staff, their ability to perform apparent miracles to preserve life and their research and innovation capabilities than are described in this newspaper today.

One involves a 40-year-old man in England who has been fitted with an artificial heart in the first operation of its type in the UK. He might not have survived the wait for a donor organ and this breakthrough has enabled him to go back to his family. It really is like something out of science fiction, but is symptomatic of the life-saving work which is performed daily in hospitals and other medical settings throughout the UK.

The other involves a Polish man knocked down on the outskirts of Belfast, dragged hundreds of metres under a bus and who clinically died three times from his horrific injuries but who lived to express his thanks because of the skilled treatment he received in our hospitals.

It takes examples like these to make us appreciate how fortunate we are to have such high-level medical care available free through the National Health Service.

Given the sometimes negative image portrayed of the health service, these are stories which the authorities should be trumpeting from the rooftops. Yet, when we approached the Belfast Health Trust to get the full story from the medical professionals involved in the Polish man's treatment, we were met only with obstruction and pleas of patient confidentiality. The patient involved was only too happy for his story to be told. Sadly the Trust's press office didn't share his feelings.

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