People's History of the NHS


Leeds Hospital Alert

Leeds Hospital Alert was founded in 1981, in response to Ken Clark's proposal to allow hospitals to 'opt-out' of local authority control. Around 100 people came to the group's first meeting, and later a 'core group' of 10-20 members emerged, who met regularly in one another's houses. The group would often use street theatre in their campaigning, for example staging an 'invasion' of a 'not-private' army led by the 'Leeds General Infirmary' in Admiral's costume (as a General's costume specifically was not available!) Leeds Hospital Alert members also had an owl costume, the civic symbol of Leeds, which was once worn by a member, Mary Greenwood, to meet Robin Cook. Mary told Robin not to worry, as 'Owls don't eat robins, if robins take care of our NHS!'. In addition to these theatrical campaigns, Leeds Hospital Alert also organised petitions, letter-writing, and a stall.

The group remains active in campaigning around local issues (see, and represents an important type of local campaigning in defense of the NHS, which should be documented. Our team were lucky enough to meet members of Leeds Hospital Alert at our NHS Roadshow with the Thackray Museum last year, and they brought along the placards and signs in this gallery to show us. These materials date from 1980 until 2016 - though more are recent, showing the importance of capturing campaign signs and placards, before they are destroyed and lost. (JC)

One thought on “Who will pay for our hospitals?

  1. How right were we to illustrate the leeches on the PFI illustration. Had they listened to us and other groups around the country we wouldn’t now be facing the Carillion disaster. Allyson Pollock was our guide and still is.

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