What is beyond the clapping?

At 8.00pm on the 26th March 2020, millions of people in the UK stood in their homes and clapped to show their appreciation for our NHS ‘frontline heroes’. This national conversation must continue. But what is beyond the clapping?

The UK’s 72 year old National Health Service was born out the biggest public health emergency of the 20th century. In 1938, with the threat of war an almost certainty, government planners began to put in place a system of public health protection. The success of the Emergency Medical Service during the war provided the blue-print for the post-war NHS structure.

In the 21st century, in the midst of a global pandemic, government planners must now put in place new systems to protect the health of the public. These new systems need to rise not only to the challenges created by COVID-19, but the multiple and complex challenges that lie beyond.

It is now time for the nation to move from clapping to speaking, and for government to listen. It is now time for a national conversation that will inform the blueprint for our post-COVID-19 health system.

Our post COVID-19 health system must be a healthy health system. It must have a clear purpose, be resilient and sustainable, give appropriate care and advice, use its resources wisely, carefully receive the information it needs and use this information to achieve its purpose. As a nation we must listen to everyone (not just the scientific and policy experts).

The newly created UK National Health Study is starting to gather real-time information from the UK population on our health, our quality of life, and the treatments and services we are using to stay healthy, and manage disease. The UK National Health Study will help gather this information in a co-ordinated manner, and thus help design of a healthier health system for the UK.