07/06/2017 13:20 BST | Updated 07/06/2017 13:20 BST

Voting For Our NHS, Schools And Essential Public Services

Visiting the polling station with your parents on election day isn't your traditional family day out. But my son aged six and twins aged four have asked to come along. They know it's also their future we will be voting for.

There are so many issues that matter to us as a family, from ensuring there are enough police officers to making sure those earning the most pay a bit more tax.

But two issues stand out to my kids. One is making sure there are enough teachers in their school. The other is the future of our NHS.

The Conservative's proposed cuts will mean eight teachers at my kids' school will be lost. My oldest son, Raphy, joined thousands of children, parents and teachers across our borough on a recent #SchoolsJustWannaHaveFunds protest. But he knows the only way we can stop this happening is at the ballot box.

His granny and grandpa are retired teachers and two of his aunties work in education - but they do not need to tell him that losing teaching assistants when they are already 30 kids per class will not be conducive to learning. Nor will cutting art, sport and music when they already spend so much time sitting doing maths and reading and writing.

It's obvious to a six year old that this is wrong. What is hard to explain is the plan of downgrading public services, so privatisation through academy status with corporate sponsorship appears the only option.


The same thing is happening with our NHS and I am writing this hopefully not as a lament, but as an appeal to save the service that saved so many members of my family, which so many of us would not be here without.

Let's not forget that it is the NHS that has been there fighting to save all the victims of terrorism, in the wake of depleted police numbers and intelligence failures. We never know when we will need it.

Like most of us I was an NHS baby. I was born by emergency C-section in 1975 after getting into distress. My mum needed a blood transfusion afterwards. My younger brother arrived almost two years later and was treated for jaundice. Then our younger sister arrived almost fatefully, three months early, after my mum contracted an infection.

I vividly remember visiting my baby sister Eilidh in hospital a few weeks after she arrived in the world weighing the same as a bag of sugar, 2lb. I was three years old and I had to wear a gown and what looked like a bath hat. Even then I had to view my tiny sister from behind a glass screen.

She wasn't expected to survive and was christened in hospital, but thanks to the love, care and attention she got, she pulled through.

A year later she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, a lifelong disability that occurs as a result of brain damage. She'd suffered a bleed on her brain soon after birth. She struggled to walk and now in her 30s she has to use a wheelchair.

During her early years our family had many memorable outings to the physiotheraphy department in our local hospital, waiting for her to get fitted with special walking boots or to receive supportive seats, standing frames and all sorts of clunky aids to help her to walk.

We'd get to have lunch in the RWVS (Royal Women's Voluntary Service) canteen: white rolls with Kraft cheese slices, a cup of Umbongo and, if we were good, a Tunnocks Teacake or a Breakaway.

Some 33 years later by a bizarre twist of fate, my identical twin boys, Luca and Leo, were born three months prematurely. The reasons for this were entirely different. They shared a placenta and developed Twin to Twin Transfusion. This condition, which can be fatal, means one twin gets more of the shared blood supply than the other.

They received life saving treatment in utero from a team of incredible doctors while I was five months pregnant. After being born, each weighing 2lb 10oz, they spent eight weeks in special care, initially being ventilated and being fed through tubes. Like my sister they would not be here without our NHS.

Deciding to take my twins on a protest to Save our NHS was a no brainer. They recognise the white letters on the blue sign and read them out "En Ach Es" each time they see it. Gathered together with doctors, nurses, and patients old, young, disabled and able-bodied, my boys realised this was a service we need to stand up for.


I have no idea how parents can afford to do without the NHS. It was there for us the time my oldest son broke his arm, on various occasions my boys have had X-rays for suspected broken fingers and ankles and crucially when one of my twins needed to got on a nebuliser overnight because he was struggling to breathe.

Having written and made programmes about social issues and healthcare for two decades it's obvious to me that we are not training enough of our own nurses, we are overworking our doctors and vast swathes of the health services are being dramatically underfunded then sold off to private companies.

I am writing this because it is a no brainer to me who to vote for in the election. I want our NHS to be around. I don't want it sold off, like so many other public services, never to be returned. I want to make sure - for any future accident or illness we have - that our NHS is still there for us, alongside all our public services.