Waiting for a National Health Godot

Emilie Couchman is an academic GP, currently undertaking a PhD with the Mesothelioma UK Research Centre at the University of Sheffield and working as a GP on a part-time basis in Northumberland. Her Twitter handle is @DrEmilieCouch


My Twitter feed has been saturated, for what seems like years, with tweets lamenting that the NHS is at breaking point. Some say that it has already broken. Who is going to confirm or deny this? It feels like we are all waiting for someone to finally say, ‘yep, sorry folks, it’s given up the ghost’. Who is this elusive person, and when are they making an appearance?

Perhaps Beckett had it right. Are we real-life Didis and Gogos? Is Godot somewhere withholding their presence while we all band together and keep fighting the good fight, for our patients’ sakes? ‘Tomorrow when I wake or think I do, what shall I say of today. That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot?’1 Is the altruism of healthcare professionals being taken for granted?

The phrase ‘we can’t go on like this’ is frequently banded around on social media in relation to the NHS.

The phrase ‘we can’t go on like this’ is frequently banded around on social media in relation to the NHS. However, it seems that the staff working within this organisation can, and are; but at what cost? I have always been a staunch supporter of the NHS, but recently, my clinical encounters and research data collection have made me realise that it drastically needs to change. At the conception of the National Health Service on the 5th of July 1948, it was described as ‘a great and novel undertaking’.2 When we consider how much the world has progressed since the 1940s, clearly it is no longer a new, but deep-rooted institution that does not adequately adapt to and serve those within today’s society. When will we be able to let go of the original NHS concept to a great enough extent to permit appropriate change?

I have always been a fan of ‘Queen.’ Perhaps because of their incredible talent; perhaps because of my fond childhood memories of my mother’s face; lit up with love for Freddie Mercury whenever the CD was played on family road trips. They sum up my sentiment regarding a resolution for the NHS quite well. ‘I want it all. And I want it now’. I’m not a particularly patient person. ‘Slapdash’ was my nickname growing up; but I am a patient person.


  1. Beckett, Samuel. 2006. Waiting for Godot. London, England: Faber & Faber.
  2.,been%20born%20when%20it%20began. Last accessed 7/2/23

Featured photo by Hennadii Hryshyn on Unsplash

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