July 27, 2018

5 small ways we can all help the NHS

As the NHS celebrated the big 7-0 this month, our minds turned to how we could each help the Service survive and thrive. Here’s what we came up with.

1. Start a stitch-up

If you’ve been thinking about taking up a new hobby recently, why not consider knitting? A 2007 study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that knitting lowers the heart rate by an average of 11 beats per minute, and induces an “enhanced state of calm,” similar to that of yoga.

We all know that mental health is as important as physical health, and that taking the time to look after it can help stave off trips to the doctor’s. But there are even more reasons the NHS could thank you for it. Bliss – the UK’s leading charity for babies born needing neonatal care – offer free downloadable knitting patterns for premature baby hats, jackets, booties and even teddy bears.
Why not get in touch with your local neonatal unit and ask if there’s anything they’re short on?

2. Don’t miss your appointment

It sounds obvious, and it’s almost never deliberate, but forgetting your appointment or mixing up your dates can have more serious consequences that an embarrassed apology. Almost eight million outpatient appointments were wasted in 2016/17 on patients who failed to turn up1, at a cost of £1bn.

Scribble it on the calendar, set a reminder on your phone, or write it in lipstick on the dog – whatever works. Just don’t forget.

3. Be neighbourly

The 2017 report from the Jo Cox Commission found that loneliness can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. If you know an older person near you who lives alone, they might not be enjoying as much human contact as they’d like, or is healthy. Why not pop round with a cake, have a chat over the fence, or invite them round for Sunday lunch? Maybe they won’t fancy it. Or maybe you’ll make their year.

4. Fill out the surveys

We know. Not another survey, right? But completing a Friends and Family survey (usually available in GP, Walk-in Centre or A&E Reception areas) or GP Patient Survey (sometimes posted to you) can help inform NHS policy and improve services. It’s also an excellent opportunity to record a formal thanks that’ll make it’s way to the bosses (see below…).

5. A little thank you goes a long way

A 2002 study by the King’s Fund2 identified feeling recognised and valued as a key factor in NHS Staff morale. And while feeling recognised and valued by senior members of staff is integral to this, we can all help give NHS staff members a boost by passing on our gratitude.

And while nothing beats a face-to-face thanks, something more physical (like a letter or card) can be held onto or displayed for years after. You never know, your words might be key in helping someone get through a rough day.


1. https://files.digital.nhs.uk/pdf/b/9/hosp-epis-stat-outp-summ-repo-2016-17-rep.pdf
2. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/counting-smiles-morale-motivation-nhs-belinda-finlayson-kings-fund-1-march-2002.pdf

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