Steve Rudd is no stranger to the NHS, nor it to he. In 2010, following a serious bout of internal illness, he ended up spending no less than six months in hospital, during which time his initial complaint was cured and his life saved, but he was found to be suffering from the incurable muscle-wasting condition, Muscular Dystrophy. He was discharged in December 2010 in a wheelchair and the next few years found him coming to terms with the concepts of "austerity” and the government’s propaganda war on the ill and disadvantaged, which led to so many tragic deaths because of benefit cuts and "fitness to work”. During his time in hospital, he wrote Catheter Come Home, (paperback, King’s England Press, £9.95) a warts and all account of his time in various NHS institutions.
He was, and remains, a staunch supporter of the NHS, and this latest cycle of linked poems celebrates, if that is the right word, the verse which has arisen out of his three most recent visits to hospital, following his new diagnosis with Atrial Fibrillation, on top of his other pre-existing condition, in May 2019. He makes no secret of the fact that he views the NHS as being in many ways almost a religious organisation, in the wider sense of the word. In Catheter Come Home he briefly touched on the origins of hospitals as medieval charities for the relief of the poor. He also suggested that hospitals were in many ways akin to monastic institutions, and that there should be a statue of "The Unknown Health Worker” in Whitehall, to which we should all make an annual pilgrimage to lay flowers.
"You can’t help but be spiritual about the NHS. For all the miracles it works, and the incredible high-tech knowledge and daily humdrum of changing sheets and serving meals, it is, nevertheless, the arena where many of us confront the most profound mysteries of existence, life and death,” he says. "Indeed, some of the miracles which are now possible also call into question our received ethical stances on all sorts of issues.” This new collction makes extensive use of the language of the King James Bible and the 1662 edition of The Book of Common Prayer. The NHS poems are intended to be read as a cycle but can of course also be read individually.