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NHS nurse celebrates healthy support

Midwife Lizzy Salway tells Sarah Olowofoyeku why she thinks the NHS is worth celebrating

My faith helps me remember why I'm doing this work

‘THE NHS is one of the most positive things about Britain,’ says midwife Lizzy Salway. ‘What I love is its message that every life has equal value.’

Lizzy has been working for the NHS for almost five years. She provides a service to expectant mothers through a method called caseloading midwifery, meaning that she cares for a number of women from first appointment through to labour and then after they give birth.

‘In particular I look after women who either want a home birth or who have additional needs, such as mental health problems or social services involvement,’ she says.

Lizzy hadn’t planned to become a midwife. She initially trained in counselling and youth work, but she later decided to look for a job in which she could care for people in a more personal way. ‘I knew that being able to help other people brought out the better side of me,’ she says. ‘Midwifery seemed like a good fit.’

Once qualified, midwives can choose whether they work in the private sector or in the NHS. For Lizzy, it wasn’t a difficult decision.

‘It’s so important to me that healthcare is done for altruistic purposes rather than business purposes,’ she says. ‘And the NHS is altruistic. Its priority is saving lives, not how much money can be made from treating people.’

One of the first adverts explaining the NHS to people said: ‘Everyone – rich or poor, man, woman or child – can use any part of it.’ This philosophy is another reason why Lizzy believes the NHS is so positive.

‘Everybody, no matter where they’re from or how rich they are, has value,’ she says. ‘People don’t have to prove their value to me. They are already valuable because they are my fellow human beings.

‘It’s a privilege that I don’t have to prove my worth to have my life saved. I wouldn’t want to give that up for anything.

‘Some people work extremely hard and still have very little money, and they may need healthcare. Others might contribute a lot and might not ever need to see their GP. But ultimately we never know what is going to happen. You can’t put a price on health, and it’s great to have that safety net there.

‘I can’t imagine ever feeling resentful that my taxes had saved someone’s life. In that sense, we really are all in this together.’

A firm supporter of free healthcare for all at the point of delivery, Lizzy believes that the ethos of the NHS particularly resonates with her because of her Christian faith.

‘The idea that everyone has equal and immeasurable value is at the centre of my faith. It has affected my view of humanity and how I treat other people.’

Lizzy’s faith also comes to life in the way that she responds to the pressures of her work. The role of a midwife can be tough and working in a service where funding has been cut can be difficult. But Lizzy is able to find support outside of the working environment.

‘At work at the moment, we’re expected to do more with fewer resources, and that can make it stressful at times – sometimes the expectations are incredibly high,’ she says. ‘That’s when my faith plays an important part. First, it helps me to remember why I’m doing this work. It also means that I can find an intimate source of compassion, love, peace and joy through Jesus and my relationship with God. As part of a church community, I have people who I can call or see, friends whose shoulders I can lean on and people who will listen, chat with me and pray for me. That gives me the strength to keep going when things get tough.’

Despite the challenges, as the NHS marks its 70th year, Lizzy certainly believes that there are reasons to celebrate it.

‘I celebrate the people who created the service, who wanted to ensure that everybody had access to free healthcare. I celebrate the NHS staff who give so much of their time, energy and effort to care for people on a daily and nightly basis. And I celebrate the love that this country has for the NHS. I hope that people will continue to celebrate and care for it – enabling them to continue being well cared for.’

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