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Poet, Colin Dardis, unveils new poem to mark NHS 70th Anniversary celebrations in Northern Ireland

Thursday 5th July 2018 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

The Northern Ireland Clown Doctors bring smiles, laughter & fun to children & young people undergoing medical treatment in hospitals & other health care settings as part of Arts Care’s programme, supported by the Arts Council's National Lottery funding. Image: The Northern Ireland Clown Doctors bring smiles, laughter & fun to children & young people undergoing medical treatment in hospitals & other health care settings as part of Arts Care’s programme, supported by the Arts Council's National Lottery funding.

The Northern Ireland Confederation of Health and Social Services is hosting a reception in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings to mark the 70th anniversary of the Health Service today, Thursday 5th July.

Northern Ireland Poet, Colin Dardis will perform his brand new poem, “Confidence”, commissioned with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, especially for the occasion and colleagues will be welcomed to Stormont by a big “Carpet of Care” - an art work created by Arts Care working in partnership with the Pushkin Trust, involving over 300 clients and volunteers from Strabane.

To formally mark the occasion, representatives from across the political spectrum, patients, clients, staff and charities have been invited to join together at Stormont to celebrate.  As part of the celebrations guests will hear stories from across the generations about how the Health Service has touched their lives. There will be dancing from Orbit Dance Company, a group of service users and healthcare staff from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, singing from a children’s choir from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, and everyone will help eat a big “NHS” letters cake. 

Heather Moorhead, Director of the Confederation of Health and Social Care, hosting today’s event explains,

“Today we are delighted to join colleagues all over the UK in celebrating the Health Service and all it has done for us over the last 70 years.  It is the jewel in our crown – it supports people at their time of greatest need and touches everyone at some time in their lives. We have so much to be thankful for.”

“We would like to pay tribute to staff and partners for their commitment to Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. As we know, there are many challenges ahead of us looking to the next 70 years. But there is no doubt that while the challenges are significant, so is our capacity to find solutions and new ways of working as we reform and transform our services for generations to come. Today, reflecting on our past inspires confidence and commitment for the future”  

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

"Of course the arts have their place in the well-being of our society, bringing grace to physical movement, easing the mind, helping to free the spirit through private expression and group engagement. It is fitting that NICHSS has reached out for words to convey the importance of the great initiative the NHS was and remains. Poet Colin Dardis has risen to the challenge and the subject memorably, capturing both the big benefits of the NHS and the often small overlooked contributions and sacrifices which make them possible. The Arts Council is delighted to be associated with the celebration and this new artwork in its honour.”

At the reception Sharon Gallagher, Deputy Secretary for Transformation at the Department of Health, will present seven people from Northern Ireland with certificates. These staff were nominated by their peers in a UK wide campaign, ‘Health and Care’s Top 70 Stars’ and were successful in being included in the overall list of 70 out of 236 nominations.

Sharon said:  “Today’s event reinforces the importance of our people in delivering real change. Seventy years ago, the NHS brought together people like those here today, for the first time, as one giant UK-wide organisation. That was a huge forward-thinking, innovative and collaborative step. Seventy years on, we have re-committed to that founding principle of integration, and I have no doubt that it will help us to create a new system which delivers first class services which will be sustainable for another 70 years and beyond.

“The serious challenges and problems we face are well documented. But we have grasped a great opportunity - through our work on transformation - to make things better and to set an example for others to follow.”

This celebration is one of hundreds right across the UK.  Across Northern Ireland, each Health and Social Care organisation will be hosting their own celebration and 1000s of people will be drinking tea and eating cake.  Many partner organisations will also be showing their support– some even lighting up their buildings in NHS blue when it gets dark later this evening.

“Confidence”
by Colin Dardis


1948: the idea that good health
should be free to all, regardless of wealth;
a vision of comprehensive purpose,
our own unified medical service,
and at its heart, a radical statement:
we will meet the needs of every patient.
2018: when I say N-H-S,
what do these three simple letters suggest?
Nations uniting to heal the nation,
multicultural conglomerations
worth celebrating, worth recognising
just what those letters are symbolising,
from the system esteemed as the world’s best
to the person who answers your SOS.

It’s the locum making calls door to door,
every blue siren you’ve pulled over for,
the donor cards checked in times of distress
when we rise up to think of someone else,
the giving of time, a match located,
blood transfusions, pints donated.
It’s the elderly couple holding hands
in the waiting room, after having scans,
the young couple testing out baby names
in between the scans and the labour pains.
It’s the vigils you make at each bedside
and the staff that take it all in their stride,
the bedrock we turn to in our illness,
that extra pillow while we convalesce.

It’s the bad news broken, thoughts and prayers,
the comfort in knowing that someone cares,
cures written down on a prescription sheet:
take two in the morning; at night, repeat.
It’s the cooks, cleaners, admin staff, porters,
it’s future proofing, from sons and daughters
at break time playing doctors and nurses
to growing up, signing up to courses,
the power to train the next generation
of carers and healers to aid the nation
It’s real life, where the Hippocratic oath
means seven more secured decades of growth.
Larger than us all, yet we all possess
this jewel in our crown, it’s the N-H-S.

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