LATER next month my family and I are off on holiday to Italy. I know we’re lucky. My husband and I both work full time so we can save a bit through the year which means 10 days of eating ice cream and lying under a foreign sun is entirely achievable. But things could be very different for us and for an awful lot of other people. And it’s all thanks to the NHS. Because if the NHS wasn’t the free service it is me and my better half may well still be paying off the debt incurred to have our kids. We went through years of treatments in order to become parents at a cost to the health service of thousands of pounds – although of course we didn’t pay a penny. If we had then our credit card bill would have cast a long, unaffordable shadow down the years. Even if we’d managed to clear the debt by now we would still be racking up costs to support the medical needs of our son who has Type One diabetes. Insulin, testing strips, blood monitors. None of it comes cheap. We’ve been made rich in other ways, too. My dad had a serious heart condition for many years. He had operations and drugs and inumerable emergency admissions to hospital. But he worked for Plessey’s and my mum packed biscuits for Crawford’s. They weren’t exactly rolling in cash so, in a world without the NHS and in which patients would have to pay for everything – like it was pre-1948, the chances are he would not have been around to see me grow up. But he did. He got to walk me down the aisle and be at the Christenings of both his grandkids. Priceless. Today is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS. Like many things, it’s not perfect. At 70 it’s creaking a bit and needs more care than it did in the past. But we should all raise a glass to the grand old lady. She’s done us all proud. * This week saw the 18-year-old attend her school leaving prom, a glittering event at which everyone looked their best. Especially the mums watching from a nearby car park. You’ve got to hold your school gate end up one last time, haven’t you?