Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
nhs_d ;

NHS at 75: "It's been my life's dream"

This year, the National Health Service turns 75. We hear from students and staff across King’s as they talk about what the NHS means to them and their experience working in the health sector.

Millie Metz is a final year medical student at King’s. She is the GKT Medical Students Association Final Year Committee chair and hopes to become a paediatrician.

I come from a family of NHS workers: my paternal grandma and mum were nurses. I’m from the North-west of England and from a working-class family. Our mantra is that the NHS is the UK’s greatest gift, but I’ve seen that first hand.

My mum was diagnosed with cancer when I was eleven and went into remission when I was fifteen. My younger brother also has a rare congenital disorder which took a long time to get diagnosed. Because of them, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, and it was my brother’s experience that inspired me to become a paediatrician.

Throughout my brother’s diagnosis period we were incredibly supported by everyone on the ward. They became our family, and one person even invited me to do work experience when I was sixteen. They were so caring to our family as my brother went through multiple tests and hospital stays. I realised then that being able to support people through difficulty is the greatest honour in the world.

My mum and grandma took me to work with them when I was little, so the NHS is like home to me. I started working at my local hospital’s café when I was sixteen, and I’ve worked at a GP since I joined medical school. During the pandemic, I spent my summer vaccinating people and lost count of how many vaccines I delivered – must have been over a thousand! There was a real sense of community then and it’s an experience I can look back on with pride.

This is my final year at GKT and I’m hoping to move back to the North-West of England to be closer to my family. Eventually I want to become a paediatrician. It’s been my life’s dream to become a doctor – I know that sounds corny but it’s kept me going. I’ve been taught by incredible doctors during my time at King’s and I can’t wait to join their ranks.

Millie Metz

Professor Kawal Rhode is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering and the Head of Education at the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences:

Joining the Radiological Sciences department at King’s as a medical student in 1991 changed my life. Back then, computing power was rising at an amazing rate and was beginning to catch up with our ambitions. The release of Intel’s 32-bit microprocessors and the advent of graphical processor units was a gamechanger. These days, it would be unheard of to resect a tumour without image guidance using computer-processed images, but back then it was the norm. Having accessible and affordable computer power changed all of this. Machines were suddenly in the operating theatres, allowing NHS professionals to do things quicker and easier.

In the last 10-15 years we’ve seen robotics research ramp up. My work focuses on working out how robots and humans can co-exist. What’s the most effective way of using robots? How do robots help patient outcomes? How do robots affect the psychology of NHS staff? What are the ethics? It’s thrilling work.

We’re taking lessons from other areas of industry. Look at automated manufacturing systems in the motor industry. There, we have robots building parts of the car before the work is passed onto humans. In the NHS, we could employ robots to do simple tasks like stitching an open wound. On the flipside, we could allow robotic systems to do what humans find high risk. This would mean the machine could complete the task at a lower risk and then allow the human to step back in. This is known as shared autonomy.

In the 30 years since I’ve been working with the NHS, I’ve seen computers become an essential part of the healthcare system. I’ve also seen artificial intelligence become a reality. But technology must benefit one of three things – the patients, the staff or the NHS’ bottom line. If the technology has none of these benefits, it has no value to the system. We’re not trying to replace humans with robots. We’re helping healthcare professionals do the job they need to do. Robotics is an assistive technology, designed to free up time so staff can be redeployed in the place they’re needed most.

The most exciting innovation for me is the combination of AI and robotics. Up to now, they’ve tended to sit separately. But the potential to bring these together is huge; we could get waiting lists down and improve patient outcomes. The possibilities are endless.

Machines and technology cause a step change in how we deliver healthcare. I feel so proud to live in a country with outstanding healthcare, but I can only strive to make it better. We also need to help those around the world have what we have. Healthcare equality on a global scale. That’s truly exciting.

Kawal Rhode

Professor Dame Anne Marie Rafferty is the ex-President of the Royal College of Nursing and Professor of Nursing Policy in the Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care.

My first job in the NHS was as an auxiliary nurse in an ophthalmic ward in Kirkcaldy, 1977. I can still remember the smell of disinfectant and hear the flapping of white coats. My very first patient was ultra-frail, she had severe dementia and pseudo bulbar palsy, which meant she had lost her swallow reflex. I was asked to feed her and tried to do so as gently and sensitively as I could. She couldn’t communicate by speech so I used touch to make contact with her and soothe the trials of trying to swallow. I distracted her with a wee story and sang a gentle song to show her I was near. She was in a very poorly condition but her humanity was still present and something to be cherished.

Nursing has changed dramatically since I first stepped foot on ward. Back then, we had canteens and even separate dining rooms serving a three-course meal! Now, there’s little time for breaks and demands for patient safety are of the highest order. Nurses are asked to carry out advanced practices, and you also have specialised nurses, such as a nurse anaesthetists and mental health nurses, who have complex caseloads and safeguarding responsibilities.

I was inspired by research as a student and seized on the opportunity to focus on workforce policy. My research has shown that an educated nursing workforce leads to better outcomes for patients. Nursing is a complex profession and requires staff to know their own mind, have courage of conviction and quick decision-making skills.

Being a nurse has afforded me an incredibly privileged career. It has tested me to the utmost of my abilities and stretched me in directions I could never dream of. It's high-powered, high pressured and I’ve met the most incredible people along the way.

Anne Marie Rafferty by Amelia Troubridge

In this story

Anne Marie Rafferty

Anne Marie Rafferty

Professor of Nursing Policy

Kawal Rhode

Kawal Rhode

Professor in Biomedical Engineering and the Head of Education at the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences

Latest news