THE NHS turned 71 last week. But like so many of that age the milestone was not marked by a party, champagne reception and a great fuss. Not even a card or a single balloon.

Instead it was marked by hundreds of thousands of staff doing what they do every day, namely treating as many people as they can in extremely trying circumstances.

Patients marked the occasion as they also do every day, waiting patiently in crowded departments until it is their turn to receive the best treatment available, possibly on a trolley in the corridor.

All of this is carried out by both parties with good grace and humour despite the enormous difficulties faced by all.

Now, most 71-year-olds are several years into a well-earned retirement by then. They’ve put in the hard yards and are entitled to a good rest and to see out their remaining days enjoying the good life, maybe seeing the world.

Is the NHS not entitled to the same? The world has moved on at breakneck speed since the NHS came into being on July 5, 1948.

Millions of lives have been saved and millions more cured of illnesses that would have killed them before due to a lack of universal affordable health care.

But the NHS is unsustainable in its current form and needs a massive reboot to allow it continue for another 71 years and well beyond that. Another way of providing, and more importantly, funding a universal health care system for the 21st century must be found and urgently too.

Other countries can do it, so why can't we? The old argument is that we all love the NHS and are extremely proud of it the way it is. But that makes it sound like an old pet and patients deserve better than that.

Medical advancements and the overall health of the nation means that just chucking billions of pounds more at the problem simply isn’t working.

People are waiting too long and staff are overstretched, working way beyond what could be classed as reasonable.

It’s nobody’s fault but it needs a radical overhaul while maintaining the core principle of being free at the point of delivery. But it seems beyond decision makers to make it happen.

The nation’s healthcare is far too important for political meddling. To be fair, being a health secretary in all of the UK's parliaments is a thankless task and one they can never hope to win.

In the meantime the NHS is on the point of breaking, if not beyond it already, and like the millions of patients it treats, it needs proper care.

The dedicated and hard-working staff who serve us all deserve better.

Maybe it’s time to think the previously unthinkable for everyone’s sake.