The NHS turns 72 today. That might seem elderly, but you don’t really get my attention as a geriatrician at that relatively youthful age.

However, if there was ever a chance to properly reflect on the NHS, as Scotland tentatively emerges from the midst of a global pandemic might be the right time to do so.

And whilst birthdays can be a time for nostalgia this year’s events should also make us look more to the future.

Those events have made plain, once again, that Scotland’s people cherish its NHS and its staff.

The challenge we faced was huge and the long journey back to normal is no less daunting.

The rapidity with which the NHS – and the NHS is those who work in it – responded over a few short weeks in March to fundamentally change how we delivered healthcare was nothing short of amazing.

READ MORE: Why GPs working in Scotland's most deprived communities fear there is a 'tsunami' of trouble ahead

Those who so visibly and audibly said thanks at 8pm on a Thursday understood that and the contribution of the whole NHS.

We can now dare to hope we have the virus under increasing control here in Scotland, but the pandemic will clearly impact the NHS for many months to come.

Whilst it’s clearly a time to be even more grateful for a health service fully funded by taxation with no additional costs at the point of access, it is also a chance to ask what the long-term future holds.

We cannot afford to go backwards. Let me set out precisely what I mean by that.

In many places, and in particular during the early stages of the pandemic, we’ve seen a genuine renewed sense of teamwork, cooperation and respect where it had badly faded, a breaking down of managerial hierarchies, and the voice of healthcare professionals listened to, enacted upon and above all valued.

A focus on the patients in front of us, not the targets set for us. Not everywhere, and not all the time, but often enough to give us hope, and doctors have told us that.

Moreover, we have seen more focused attention to the physical and mental wellbeing of NHS staff that so often we’ve only seen lip service paid to before.

Could it be the deeply flawed culture that fostered the inappropriate and unacceptable behaviours that Sturrock’s report on NHS Highland illustrated so starkly could be put on the road to recovery by a pandemic?

Maybe, maybe not, but the flicker of hope is there.

In terms of the whole system, there can be no more avoiding and obfuscating about the obvious workforce shortages and using soundbites about record staffing levels.

Nor saying that we have sufficient funding in place to meet increasing demand and the ever-expanding range of things the NHS is expected to do.

There’s now a chance - maybe the best and only chance we’ll get - to change direction and not return to a toxic target driven culture.

READ MORE: Scotland's cancer waiting time target missed for seven years in a row

As we come out of the pandemic it is vital we avoid returning to the old patterns of name, shame and blame if targets are not met, especially when they simply weren’t achievable with the resources available in the first place.

Let’s reset the clock. Even if we can’t avoid the rising number of NHS birthdays.

That means it’s time for an open and honest and adult conversation between public, politicians and those who deliver healthcare about the challenges our NHS faces – pandemic or no pandemic.

What is it we need the NHS to deliver in 2020, but also in 2030 and beyond? And to emphasise, we must focus on needs, not wants. The NHS isn’t a shopping list.

And if we want it to provide the same as before or even more, then there is a very real resource and workforce price to put on that, even in what may well be an unfolding, post pandemic financial crisis.

During the pandemic there has been a lot more honesty and plain, clear speaking from politicians and health leaders alike. I believe that the public responded to that, appreciated it and repaid it by keeping their side of the bargain during lockdown. That honesty and sense of a new partnership needs to continue.

It may finally be time to take some of the politics out of the NHS, however forlorn a hope that seems. Is it finally time to bring people from across parties, society and the health service together to work together and plot a path for the NHS for the decades to come?

Let’s not get completely carried away – first we need to guard against and prepare for future waves of Covid-19.

But with a Scottish parliamentary election not that far off, we must not shy away from the hard questions. It’s a huge challenge.

It will need cross party bravery, honesty and cooperation and not the traditional use of the NHS as a campaigning football. Well, maybe I am getting carried away, but it’s no less necessary for that.

So, happy birthday NHS Scotland. Maybe you aren’t old, you’re just approaching your prime.

Dr Lewis Morrison, chair of BMA Scotland