Donating to the Museum of the Royal College of Physicians

The RCP Museum needs YOU!

As Kristin Hussey has written in her blog, the Museum of the RCP is urgently seeking to develop its collections on medicine in the NHS era. Below, Kristin explains what they especially would like to collect and how to go about donating in a bit more detail:

We are particularly interested in collecting items like:

  • Insulin injectors and pumps
  • Medical education models
  • Hearing aids
  • Boxes and packaging for vaccines, antibiotics and antivirals
  • Testing kits for blood, DNA and urine
  • Items related to blood transfusions and organ donations
  • Items related to respiratory health, including those used by patients suffering from asthma or tuberculosis, or preventative equipment against air pollution.
  • Items related to cancer treatment.
  • Copies of X-rays, MRIs and CT-scans (only where patient’s permission has been obtained)
  • Items related to antiseptic and a-septic protocols
  • Items which show changes in treatments
  • Items which show changes in diagnostic techniques
  • Items or artworks produced by patients (for example during chemotherapy or during hospital stays)

There are some restrictions to what we can collect. Large items, fragile or broken items, hazardous items will likely not be appropriate for a museum collection. In particular, we can’t collect human remains, mercury or anything flammable. We cannot collect controlled drugs and would need to carefully assess the possible dangers of any chemicals. While we would love to collect large medical equipment, due to space restrictions we are only able to accept small items (approx. 40cm2 ).

If you are interesting in donating something to the Royal College of Physicians related to the NHS, please email history@rcplondon.ac.uk with the following information:

  • Your details (Name, contact information)
  • An image of the item
  • A description of the item
  • Details of how you came to own the item
  • Details of any personal stories connected to the item
  • Approximate measurements

All potential donations are then presented to the LAMS Management Committee and assessed against our Collections Development Policy and a significance criteria chart. Successful donors will be contacted and delivery of objects to RCP arranged. Once acquired, the objects will form a part of the permanent collection of our accredited museum. Potential donations should not been sent directly to the RCP. Any items received will be returned to the senders where a return address is supplied. If no return address is given, items will be held for 6 months and if not claimed may be disposed of.

The Royal College of Physicians Museum is an accredited, public museum with permanent displays and a programme of changing temporary displays, tours and events. We are free and open to the public Monday to Friday, 9-5, with late openings the first Thursday of every month. For more information on us and our 500th anniversary – please visit https://history.rcplondon.ac.uk/. You can also follow us on twitter, facebook and Instagram @rcpmuseum.

FIVE Questions about the NHS – Where will the NHS be in 70 Years?

In collaborating with the BBC for this year’s 70th anniversary of the NHS we wanted to find out how people felt about the future of the NHS, as well as thinking about its past, and so another question that we felt it was important to put forward to the interviewees was; ‘Where will the NHS be in 70 years?’

Taken at face value such a question would appear to be straightforward enough, and yet when you really think about it, this is perhaps a little trickier to answer than it might appear. My own head immediately ran to images of health dystopias, of technology run amuck or Hunger Games-style competitions for healthcare, or else a utopian land of endless funding and truly equal treatment, perhaps even free prescriptions….

What becomes clear in the interviews, however, is that how a person answers this question is very much tied to their deeper feelings about the NHS. For nearly every single one of the fourteen interviews we have released so far you can hear each person speak about fear and, overwhelmingly, hope. Such feelings are natural enough when thinking about the future, but what comes across in these interviews is that it is in fact hope that is the overriding vision of the NHS in 70 years; hope that it will still be here, and hope that it will remain true to its core principles, as a universal service that speaks to the very core of our civilisation.

As this last point highlights, the flipside to that emotional coin is fear; fear that we will lose it, that it will become ‘a series of private companies’, or too much like an American model of healthcare (Dr Elphis Christopher describes this as ‘I do not want us going down the American way’, and suggests that ‘prevention is better than cure’ – perhaps that applies both in terms of our own health and that of the NHS itself). What is striking, however, is that those very feelings of hope and fear are a big part of our previous question – ‘what would you do for the NHS?’ People talk about fighting to keep the NHS, the need to preserve it, and that it may well need to evolve and adapt. One interviewee even spoke proudly of ‘doing everything possible to keep it going’.

And this after all is perhaps something that is key to understanding the relationship between the British public and the NHS; it is for many a living, breathing public institution, part of the fabric of our ourselves and our identity, and that means for making sure that we fight to keep it alive and keep it going. There is a sense for many people that our apathy and neglect could result in a future in which the NHS is lost. Perhaps it is in this way that the NHS does reflect the best in society – not just in the admirable moral principles that underlie its foundations, but in how it can often bring out the best and most civilised in our society, as people stand together to fight for its future.

This then, is far from the nightmarish dystopia that first sprang to my mind, but the utopian future of the NHS is in fact there, in these interviews. People ultimately put their hope ‘In Place of Fear’, as Nye Bevan once called for. Perhaps the last word then should be had by Jackie Serrano who ultimately believes in a better future for the NHS: ‘we can do more, we can do wonders’.

Five questions about the NHS: The things we would do for the NHS

The second question in our series looking at peoples memories for the upcoming People’s History of the NHS BBC documentary concerns the things that we do for the NHS. As you will find browsing the stories in our members’ section, people living in Britain do all sorts of things to support the service. Much of what we do is very mundane, imperceptible as a “contribution” to the health service often even to ourselves. We pay the taxes that fund the service, we vote for politicians who promise to keep the service in good working order, we make an effort not to “abuse” its services unnecessarily, we try to be helpful patients or demanding patients to push the whole system along. The NHS is so embedded in life in Britain that we are obliged on some level to do things for it.

Many go a lot further than that. Lots of people dedicate their working lives to the NHS, often specifically because they want their work to mean something, to contribute to an institution that cares for the nation’s sick. That work is challenging, not just because of the trauma that often attend health care settings, but also because the NHS can be a careless, exploitative employer, drawing deep on staff’s reserves of compassion as it demands more and more of their efforts for meagre compensation. Once there, many of the NHS’ staff go beyond the expectations of work, some spending their working life fighting for improvements in the services they deliver. Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, interviewed for our BBC documentary is one example. She pushed for proper resources for people suffering with sickle cell and thalassemia.

Still others look to contribute to the NHS with their unpaid labour. The health service has always drawn on a deep well of sympathy from charities and volunteers, who raise money, donate blood, run hospital shops and sometimes provide services where the NHS lacks the time, resources or inclination. The stories shared in our MyNHS members area feature all sorts of charitable endeavours and voluntary activities. More controversially, others go into battle to save aspects of the NHS that they value. Campaigners march, sign petitions, lobby parliament, stage sit-ins and protests, sometimes to save particular hospitals or services, to demand access to new services, to demand justice for people who’ve been mistreated. Whistleblowers in the NHS have taken perhaps some of the greatest risks, endangering their jobs and reputations to expose malpractice and suffering.

How would I answer the question “What would you do for the NHS?” I suppose my starting point would be the things I have done for it. There are things I’ve done inadvertently, simply because I’m citizen of the UK. I paid tax, I voted for politicians I saw as pro-NHS. More consciously, I make an effort to be a “good health citizen” – only going to the GP or the hospital if it’s really necessary, trying to keep healthy, taking the full course of anti-biotics, that sort of thing. Although I’d have to admit there’s a fair bit of self-interest in all of that!

Then there’s the fact that I worked for the NHS for 2 years. Unbelievably, in modern Britain about 1 in 20 employees works for the NHS, so there’s a good chance you as the reader might have done this too. I was a secretary, so I filed the files, put the data in the database, emailed the emails etc. so my nurse and doctor colleagues could go do “front line care”. It certainly felt important that I do that, but they did pay me, so I not sure how far that counts either. I left and went to work on other things, less urgent things, less life and death things.

The NHS remained important to me, but my contribution felt more marginal. I was a donor card holders, a very occasional blood givers, and certainly a petition signer and a protester – on marches to save hospitals, to oppose cuts, to offer my dissent on private provision plans, strategic reorganisation plans, on target plans, or pay restraint plans, on outsourcing plans. I don’t recall that anyone ever listened. It’s hard to know if that amounts to much, if it amounts to everything that needed to be done. “What would I do for the NHS?”  I’d do what I could, what I thought might help, but worry it won’t be enough.

We would welcome your reflections on the question of ‘what you would do for the NHS’. Our sites has dozens of memories already, why not join and add yours!