NHS England and NHS Improvement are supporting two major national programmes which are helping to celebrate the NHS’s 70th birthday.
NHS at 70: The Story of our Lives
NHS at 70 is an ambitious Heritage Lottery funded project led by the University of Manchester, which will preserve NHS heritage and mark its 70th anniversary in 2018.
Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are currently gathering stories from patients, workers and the public from the first to subsequent generations who worked or were cared for by the NHS.
The legacy of these stories will be a digital archive – the first UK wide archive of NHS history – which will be kept in perpetuity for future generations to access and for historians to gain insights into the history of this unique institution.
NHS heritage will come alive through an interactive website launching in 2018, where visitors can upload their own NHS stories. The project will also see films and exhibitions presenting the first national social story of the NHS. Heritage-gathering events will give everyone the opportunity to contribute their story. The project will produce a step-change in the conservation, interpretation and accessibility of this unique heritage that will endure through the digital resources.
Current partners in the first stage of the project, which is initially focusing on Manchester and South Wales, before rolling out nationally include Age UK, Mental Health Foundation, Rethink Mental Illness, The Stroke Association, TUC, NHS England, NHS Improvement and the NHS Confederation.
NHS at 70 are collecting stories and memorabilia from patients, workers, volunteers and the public. Can you remember the beginnings of the NHS? Did you come from overseas to work in the NHS? Have you been a porter, a radiographer, a surgeon, a cleaner or held any other post in the NHS? Do you have a long term medical condition treated by the NHS? Whatever your story, NHS at 70 are keen to collect it.
The cultural history of the NHS
The NHS has been the subject of several major political and policy histories. Astonishingly, however, given the sheer scale of its impacts on local and regional communities, and on Britain’s national and international identity, the cultural history of this key institution of post-war British life remains largely undeveloped. There is no history that addresses the realm of meaning, feelings, and representation, and none that responds to the striking observation that ‘the NHS is the closest thing the English have to a religion’.
Thanks to funding from the Wellcome Trust, a team from the University of Warwick is now producing the first major history of this subject.
The project will attempt to answer the following questions:
- How has the popular meaning of the NHS changed since 1948, and how have changes influenced public attitudes towards, responses to and feelings about the health services?
- To what extent have cultural representations of the NHS captured and inflected its unique position in British daily life?
- How has the NHS been perceived and represented by its own staff, trade unions and regulatory bodies?
- Has the NHS – as an institution and a resource, as well as an emblem of wider and deeper social beliefs — changed British identity in identifiable and distinctive ways?
- Have ambitions to use the NHS as vehicle for the transmission of cultural norms been fulfilled or frustrated?
One part of the project is the development of a website that collects people’s personal stories and memories of the NHS. We’d love to hear people’s recollections of the NHS and what it means to them. People who would like to participate, should visit the project’s website. Here you can share your stories, respond to calls for information, find out about public engagement events, and visit the project’s ‘virtual museum’ and ‘People’s Encyclopedia of the NHS’.
You can also follow the project on Twitter: @NHSHistory_.