It’s astonishing what you can take for granted until life forces you to properly appreciate it.

This year, I learned not to take the NHS and its staff for granted.

I met many incredible people from across the globe who dedicate themselves to caring for others.

And I couldn’t be more grateful to them.

At the end of an appointment this spring, I asked my GP to take a quick look at what I thought was an old footballing injury on my toe.

I worried I was wasting his time with something very minor.

But though he was clearly pushed for time, the doctor took me seriously.

He examined me carefully – and promptly referred me for a test to rule out skin cancer.

To my surprise, that one moment of careful attention became the start of many months of tests, diagnosis, and eventually surgery for malignant melanoma.

A few weeks after my referral, I opened the pages of this newspaper to find a picture of the same GP, Dr Max Hickman.

It was a piece about the tremendous pressure he and many others are faced with, and the effect it had on him.

I was shocked and upset. How blessed I was that he had been so professional and given me such careful attention while under great pressure.

If he hadn’t - I thought to myself - the cancer would almost certainly still be growing in me now.

It reminded me that we have an important duty to care for the people who care for us.

If we don’t care for them, then who will? We can’t leave it to chance.

I’m massively committed to the NHS, but my personal experience suggests some hard truths need speaking.

We’ve been reading about the pressures on the NHS for years. Occasionally we read about the worrying effect on patients.

But what about the effect on those who care for us?

My experience of two health care trusts, three hospitals, six different doctors and consultants, a handful of surgeons, tens of nurses, and many other support and administrative staff, was that the NHS’s staff are wonderful, but that its administrative systems are massively overstretched.

As a consequence, many of those workers are living with a level of pressure they shouldn’t have to.

Whatever our party political views about this situation, I’m sure almost everyone can see that the pressures of a system creaking at the seams often sit firmly on the shoulders of those whose job it is to care. And perhaps they put up with more pressure than they should, exactly because they care?

So here are a few simple things I think I can do to help.

If something can be dealt with by a pharmacist, I’m going to start there and try to keep the pressure of my GP.

Each time I do see a doctor or nurse, I’ll consider the pressures they face.

I’ll thank them for what they do and show them that I care about them.

If I struggle to get through on the phone to my surgery, I won’t be grumpy with the receptionist.

Instead, I’ll do my best to be patient and remember that they are doing their best with limited resources.

I’ll also consider what best I might do as a citizen and a voter to help tackle the problems of the NHS as a whole.

I want to thank the very many people in the NHS who helped to care for me this summer.

I can’t think of a better way to thank them than to reassure them of this: we care for you too – we will speak up for you when the pressure gets too great – and we’ll do what we can to relieve the pressures on the NHS.