University secures lottery funding to record the NHS’s 70-year history

The University of Manchester has secured a National Lottery grant of £785,000 for ’NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives’. The project will create the first shared social history of the National Health Service.

Following a development grant of £199,100 in March 2017, the Centre for the History of Science, Technology & Medicine (CHSTM), part of the University’s Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, has begun collecting stories from the NHS’s patients and workers, as well as politicians and the general public.

Over the course of the project and working with partners including Age UK, the Mental Health Foundation, Rethink Mental Illness, the Stroke Association, NHS, NHS Confederation and the TUC, 160 people of all ages and backgrounds will be trained to gather stories and artefacts from the NHS’s 70-year history. Many of the health service’s first patients and workers are now in their 80s and 90s; this anniversary marks one of the last opportunities to record their stories.

Among the stories uncovered so far in the new archive (launched last month, June 2018), is that of 79-year-old Philip Prosser, who explained how a tiny Welsh society inspired Aneurin Bevan to create the NHS.

Philip, who was born with a ‘club foot’, was helped by the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society. His father paid a small weekly subscription to the Society formed by miners and steelworkers, entitling him to surgery on his feet in 1939.

Tredegar was also the hometown of Labour Minister Aneurin Bevan who masterminded the National Health Service nearly a decade later.

“When the NHS came in in 1948, I was transferred over. It was exactly the same as the NHS in 1948. We already had it in Tredegar before that,” Philip told the interviewer (trained through the NHS at 70 project).

This confirmed funding ensures the ‘NHS at 70’ project will continue collecting the oral histories of a treasured British institution. The digital archive is already available to be explored and contributed to by anyone with stories or memories of the NHS.

The University of Manchester's Dr Stephanie Snow, ‘NHS at 70’ project leader, said: "Anyone can visit the project at https://www.nhs70.org.uk/ which is about working with volunteers from all walks of life to capture people’s stories and memorabilia to mark the seventieth anniversary of the NHS and create an Archive that will be there for future generations."

The NHS has an advantage over other significant historical anniversaries, because we still have access to people who participated in its 1948 creation. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have the opportunity to collect this history before it’s too late.
Dr Stephanie Snow

Multimedia content from the ‘NHS at 70’ will also be shared through a touring exhibition, and films that will tour the UK in 2019 and 2020.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “The NHS holds a very special place in peoples’ hearts and it’s wonderful that this project has secured the funding necessary to capture the extraordinarily wide-reaching heritage of the NHS, as it reaches its 70th birthday.

“We were particularly impressed by the number and range of people who will be involved in the project, receiving training to capture and present the story of this much-loved national treasure for future generations.”

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