The National Health Service, it is often said, is the closest thing the British have to a religion. Yet this is an institution whose very future is now regularly in question. Through this website, and with your help, we aim to build a People’s History of the NHS to better understand what the NHS has meant to people living in and visiting Britain from its opening in 1948 up to its forthcoming 70th anniversary in 2018. Such a history is important in relation to current challenges faced by the NHS. Those contributing to this history will have strong feelings on this. However we also need to remain open minded about what we will discover through a People’s History of the NHS. We appreciate the power of certain assumptions about the meaning of the NHS, but we also know that the history of meaning, belief, and experience has yet to be fully researched. Without this history those assumptions rest on fragile ground. Uncovering the People’s History of the NHS may confirm some of our assumptions, but it may also unearth surprises. Whatever the case, we hope a People’s History of the NHS will place us in a better position to think about and respond to current challenges.
How will this People’s History of the NHS work? With the generous support of the WellcomeTrust, we have put together a team of historians at the University of Warwick to coordinate and facilitate the People’s History website. They will also draw upon its findings in writing about the cultural history of the NHS. But crucially, the People’s History, which will centre on this website and meetings with the public across the country in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the NHS in 2018, aims to reach out to anyone and everyone, whether this is just to read about its findings, which will be regularly posted on the website, or to contribute views, memories, and historical materials. The website will be the home for a truly collaborative history, a place for debate, and a venue for fresh thinking about what the NHS has meant.
The People’s History website will evolve and grow in response to your contributions. It will centre on three main projects: