From 20th October, buy History Today at your local newsagent for an article by our team’s Jenny Crane about the changing ways in which Britons have laughed with, within, or at the NHS from its inception to the present day.
The article discusses a variety of sources – post-war public health films, cartoons, satire from campaign groups, and films from the memorable Carry On Matron to the National Health. Overall, the article tries to trace a shift in forms of humour about the NHS, from a light-hearted, jovial mode of the 1940s and 1950s, optimistic about the services’ potential and provision, towards a darker, more critical humour in the 1960s and 1970s, tied up with counter-cultural shifts, and more contested NHS policy.
This article revolves around public representations of humour, traceable through the archive. Yet, as a team, the NHS History staff are also very keen to find personal accounts of moments of humour in the NHS, which tell us so much about everyday life, meaning, and feeling. Indeed, already this website has generated such memories – which you can read here – including comic misunderstandings in a GP surgery, and the hearing of rude songs in hospital relating to, and rhyming with, Jeremy Hunt.
If you have more memories to share about humour in the NHS, please do write them below, or in our members’ area.