A RECENT survey listed 50 things that make us Brits feel most proud to be British. It included: proper pubs, a well-brewed cuppa, the BBC, the Lake District, even good old Hadrian’s Wall made the cut despite its Romano-British origins.

Not surprisingly, the NHS was near the top of the list.

It may be 70 but we are working the health service as hard as ever. Behind stories about heroic staff, breakthrough drugs and shiny scanners lie nagging concerns about how the service will survive. There is nothing new there. Only three months after the NHS was founded its architect, Nye Bevan, said: “I’ve been exhorting the general public in the last few weeks to make use of this National Health Service prudently, intelligently and morally, because if too great a strain is placed upon it at the beginning it might break down, and because things are free is no reason why people should abuse their opportunity.”

Great strides in treatment and preventative medicines have helped lift life expectancy from 66 for men and 70 for women in 1948 to 79 years for men and 83 for women today and the NHS can feel proud of the role it's played in that happening, but in many fundamental ways so much about the NHS is the same now as then.

Its free-at-point-of-use principles were compromised in its early years and fears over funding and privatisation have plagued it persistently.

It has always been adored by the public but it’s also never shaken off the image of an institution forever on the verge of collapse.

Today’s anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the fact that it is still here because Britain without the NHS would not be worth living in. We say 'thank you' to its founders and to the people who have fought to keep it going over seven decades.