People's History of the NHS

  • 01
  • APR

Latest Call: Tell Us Your NHS Jokes!

by Jenny Crane

Inspired by April Fools’ Day, for the next couple of weeks we’re asking you to tell us your funny memories or jokes related to the NHS.  From its inception, humour has been mapped onto the political, cultural, and social changes related to the NHS.  Artists drew cartoons which satirised, criticised, and ultimately publicised initial opposition to the NHS from the British Medical Association and the British Hospital Association.  Staff and patients – we presume – used humour to discuss and cope with how changes in health care provision were affecting their lives.  Early public information films conveyed public health messages with comedy.  For example, in the Scottish film ‘In the Clear’ (1957), the comedians Jimmy Logan and Stanley Baxter sought to persuade viewers to go for chest x-rays in order to identify and prevent TB (with thanks to Chris Holme for sending us a link to this film!)

With this in mind, we’re interested in how hopes and anxieties about the NHS have been reflected in jokes told over time.  We’d like to know more about the function of humour, whether jokes have been a method of coping with disease, constructing communities, or perhaps challenging medical authority, and also how communication technologies have changed how jokes were shared (for example with the rise of the internet in the late 1990s).

We’d love to hear about any memories or thoughts which you have related to this theme, for example:

  • Do you know any jokes about the NHS?  If so, when and where did you first hear them, and did you find them funny?
  • Have you seen humour used in relation to the NHS in a newspaper, cartoon, or on a medical drama?  What did you think of this?
  • Do you have any funny memories from times in a hospital, GP surgery, or dentist, for example as a patient, visiting a family or friend, or as a member of staff?  How did you feel at the time?

We look forward to hearing from you, and will be compiling a blog post and encyclopedia entry about jokes, humour and the NHS shortly after this call has closed, so your contributions really are helping us to write a collaborative People’s History of the NHS!

Find out more from our encylopaedia entry on humour and the NHS.
(Image credit: In The Clear: Stanley Baxter and Jimmy Logan fronts an x-ray campaign for the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis, 1957, rights holder: the Stroke Association)

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