Listen to or read a Celebration in Prayer for the Anniversary of the National Health Service.
The National Health Service came into being on 5 July 1948. During post-war reconstruction, improving the healthcare of the nation was seen as crucial to the nation’s recovery. William Beveridge, the architect of the NHS, identified five giants that had to be slain: want, disease, squalor, ignorance and idleness.
The cataclysm of war provided the stimulus for radical reform. It was a momentous achievement and, in spite of early professional resistance to some of the proposals, it was born of a national consensus –
everybody wanted the new service to work.
The NHS was based on principles unlike anything that had gone before.
- It was financed almost entirely from central taxation.
- That the rich paid more than the poor for comparable benefits was regarded as a crucial part of the scheme.
- Everyone was eligible for care, even people temporarily resident or visiting the country.
- People could be referred to any hospital, local or more distant.
- Care was free at the point of use, although prescription and dental charges were subsequently introduced.
During the current pandemic, there has been immense national and local support for the NHS and its front-line workers. The emergence of the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’ was a significant experience in the lockdown. Thanksgiving binds communities together, turning ‘I’ into ‘we’. The contribution of carers and key workers who have given of themselves sacrificially deserves to be honoured; unsung heroes need to be applauded.
Let us pray.
God of healing and compassion,
we thank you for the establishment of the National Health Service,
and for the dedication of all who work in it:
give skill, sympathy and resilience to all who care for the sick,
and your wisdom to those engaged in medical research.
Strengthen all in their vocation through your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
A reading from the book of Ecclesiasticus.
Honour physicians for their services, for the Lord created them;
for their gift of healing comes from the Most High,
and they are rewarded by the King.
The skill of physicians makes them distinguished,
and in the presence of the great they are admired.
The Lord created medicines out of the earth,
and the sensible will not despise them.
Was not water made sweet with a tree
in order that its power might be known?
And he gave skill to human beings
that he might be glorified in his marvellous works.
By them the physician heals and takes away pain;
the pharmacist makes a mixture from them.
God’s works will never be finished;
and from him health spreads over all the earth.
My child, when you ill, do not delay,
but pray to the Lord,
and he will heal you.
This is the word of the Lord.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters:
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me:
your rod and staff –
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
A reading from the Gospel according to St Luke.
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus, “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him: and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell in the hands of the robbers?”
He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
This is the word of the Lord.
The seven critical-care Covid Hospitals have been named after Florence Nightingale, and a post-Covid rehabilitation facility has been named after Mary Seacole. These are both prominent figures in nursing history and role models for the National Health Service.
Mary Seacole was a pioneering nurse and heroine of the Crimean War. As a woman of mixed race she is celebrated today as an inspiration for the many Black, Asian & Mixed Ethnicity people who sustain our NHS.
Born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1805, to a Scottish soldier and a Jamaican mother, Mary learned her nursing skills from her mother, who kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers. She was an inveterate traveller, and before her marriage to Edwin Seacole, in 1836, visited other parts of the Caribbean, as well as Central America and Britain.
On these trips, she complemented her knowledge of traditional medicine with European medical ideas. In 1854, Mary approached the War Office, asking to be sent as an army nurse to the Crimea. She was refused but, undaunted, she funded her own trip to the Crimea where she established the British Hotel, near Balaclava, for sick and convalescent officers. She also visited the battlefield, sometimes under fire, to nurse the wounded. Mary became known as Mother Seacole.
Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 into a wealthy family. In the face of their opposition, she insisted on training to become a nurse. In 1853, she finally achieved her wish and headed her own private nursing institute in London. Her efforts at improving conditions for the wounded during the Crimean War won her great acclaim. She devoted the rest of her life to reforming nursing care. Her school at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, became significant in helping to elevate nursing into a profession.
Let us pray to God our Father, whose Son came that we may have life.
We give you thanks for the life and work of all those whose vision founded our National Health Service, and for those who serve others in care and compassion. We pray that their work and ministry to the sick may enrich and support the welfare of all.
We give thanks for all who provide leadership in health care,
for those who exercise stewardship and allocate resources. We pray that, in challenging times, support and compassion may be shown to those most in need.
We pray for all who promote health and wellbeing in policy and practice; for all who care for the sick – in hospital, in care homes, and at home; for doctors, nurses, care assistants, and for all who work in and support the NHS, no matter what their role.
We seek guidance and strength for all chaplains, and for all engaged in teaching and medical research.
We pray for those who suffer in body, mind or spirit; for those who are terminally ill, elderly or frail; for all who live with disability or in constant pain; and for the many who strive to bring comfort and healing to them.
Remember in your Kingdom, merciful God, all those who have faithfully served you here on earth, and are now at rest; grant us, with them, and with all the faithful departed, the joy of your salvation.
We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, to the mercy and protection of God.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The Blessing and Dismissal
The love of the Lord Jesus
draw you to himself,
the power of the Lord Jesus
strengthen you in his service,
the joy of the Lord Jesus fill your hearts;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Go in the peace of Christ.
Thanks be to God.