NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives

Published on 22/07/2019
NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives

The NHS is a uniquely British institution. To mark its 70th anniversary The University of Manchester and its partners have embarked on an exciting new people’s history project, NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives. 

For the first time in the history of the NHS, this project will to capture and share stories from patients, staff and the wider public about what the NHS means to them and their experiences of this multi-faceted organisation. This national project will preserve this crucial slice of our shared heritage and start a national conversation about what this uniquely British institution means to us. “We are creating the first shared social history of the National Health Service.” - Dr Stephanie Snow, Project Director.

Led by The University of Manchester, this will be the first time stories of ordinary people will give voice to hidden human histories and enable people to connect with NHS heritage, good and bad. By working with volunteers from partner organisations (including Age UK, Stroke Association, Rethink Mental Illness and the TUC), we have started to piece together an inclusive history by targeting hard-to-reach groups, such as patients with mental health problems and early NHS workers from the Commonwealth who experienced racial discrimination.

We must act now as time is running out to collect the memories of those now aged over 80 who recall the early days of the NHS. There is an absence of NHS museums or displays of NHS heritage as part of larger collections. These cradle to grave stories will be available on a public Digital Archive - the first of its kind for NHS history - providing a lasting resource for all audiences to discover NHS history through the voices of the people who have worked and were cared for by the NHS since 1948.

Following a generous grant of £785,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £45,000 investment from The University of Manchester, we are seeking philanthropic support to fund £87,000 to complete the project. We are looking at approaching companies who are intrinsically connected with both the NHS and the University to become project partners, helping us ensure this project can be completed. All project partners will be recognised throughout the lifespan of the project and will retain a connection to this unique project and it’s legacy with recognition in the core outputs including a Digital Archive and film to be shown across NHS institutions UK-wide.

Core Activity and Output

  •          Creation of a Heritage Hub website (digital archive) and online portal which turns visitors into content generators.
  •          Training people from all walks of life in oral history to collect stories and memorabilia from members of the public and gain new skills in digital media, research and archiving.
  •          Training young people (aged 16-25) in Community Reporting to gather stories from their local communities. Not only will this enable us to collate stories but these young people will gain new skills in communication and video production.
  •          The curation and creation of an interactive multi-media exhibition that will travel around the UK, visiting hospitals, community centres, libraries and museums to share the history gathered with new audiences and encourage more public participation.
  •          Heritage Events including an interactive multi-media exhibition and engagement activities for all ages that will stimulate interaction with NHS history and encourage visitors to contribute their stories.
  •          The production of ‘The NHS: Past, Present and Future’, a film that will stimulate reflection on the place of the NHS in British post-war history, encourage the public to participate in a national operation of heritage gathering and preservation and act as a lasting output from the project. The film will be shown across NHS institutions UK-wide, along with community venues and on Digital Archive. 

To find out more, and how to get involved, get in touch with:

Katie Lees 

The University of Manchester


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