People's History of the NHS


Nurses’ Christmas, 1963

Giles' cartoons often focused on inpatient hospital wards and particularly the interactions between patients and nurses. Despite the vast majority of NHS encounters taking place in GP surgeries, hospitals often dominate imaginary depictions and popular memories of the NHS.

Giles' 1963 hospital scene has a lot of interesting features, most notably the way race, gender and class are being shown. Giles was one of the earliest newspaper cartoonists to routinely draw black staff in NHS wards, and almost the only one to do so simply as acknowledgement of the reality of the NHS' workforce rather than as a specific comment about immigration and race. Other newspaper cartoonists tended to use black doctors and nurses either to reproduce racist tropes about "incompetent foreign doctors" or sometimes to critique the dependence of British racists on black medical expertise.

The gender politics are a bit more conventional for the period, with the nurses sexualised by Father's sudden enthusiasm for decoration. The nurses are also busy doing unpaid caring labour for the benefit of the patients, whilst the middle-class male doctors look on, busying themselves with paperwork.

Ronald Carl Giles/Daily Express/N&S Syndicaton ( and British Cartoon Archive (

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