Sharing the stories of NHS staff and volunteers

To help mark the NHS’s 70th birthday in 2018, NHS England supported a major University of Manchester project to collect and share the stories of NHS staff, volunteers and patients.

More than 160 volunteers from the project interviewed hundreds of NHS staff and volunteers – past and present – to hear about their personal experiences of working in the NHS.

Dozens of patients were also interviewed, with all of the conversations being recorded for future posterity.

In total, over 2,400 staff, volunteers and patients shared their stories over a five year period, including their experience throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic.

As the NHS’s marks its 75th year, the recordings have been made available by the British Library website.

One of the interviewees is Dame Professor Elizabeth Anionwu, who is a nurse, academic and writer. Elizabeth has contributed two interviews to the project – one in 2018 focusing on her life history and one in 2022 reflecting on her experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. In her 2018 interview, Elizabeth spoke about her early involvement in developing services for people with sickle cell. In 1979, she helped to establish the first nurse-led UK sickle and thalassaemia screening and counselling centre.

Mary Good is the eldest interviewee in the collection – born in 1914. Mary was interviewed in 2020, reflecting on her life over the last century and the changes she has seen. The daughter of a GP, Mary trained as a nurse in the 1930s at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and was involved in the development of neonatal care at St Mary’s in Manchester in the 1940s.

Norman Sharp, born in 1925, has a Guinness Book of World Records entry for having had the first hip replacement operation on the NHS. Norman, who sadly died in 2021, recorded his life history for the collection in 2019. In his interview, he talks about developing septic arthritis as a child in 1930 and his subsequent treatment. In 1948, aged 23, Norman had both his hips replaced in the newly formed NHS.

To hear the stories and find out more, visit the Voices of Our NHS website and the British Library website.