Who we are

On 5 July, the National Health Service will be celebrating its 70th birthday. For most British people today, life (or death) without the NHS would be unimaginable. Only relatively few in our society now remember what society was like before we had a health service free at the point of delivery.


The birthday is a time to celebrate the NHS and all that it has done for us, and also an opportunity to reflect on how well it works, what we would be without it and how it contributes to our national identity. ‘How the NHS Changed Our World’ is a 5-part series starting on Monday 25 June on BBC2 at 7pm, and features some of the UK’s pioneering hospitals and services.

But there’s also space for a bit of light-hearted programming, with ‘Britain’s Best Junior Doctors’ starting on BBC 2 on 25 June.  Billed as the first medical-themed quiz show, this week-long series pits teams of junior doctors from different teaching hospitals as they are tested on their knowledge and skill in the battle of the stethoscopes. It concludes on Friday 29 June with the two highest-scoring teams in a cut-throat final.  Jo Brand helps to inject some comedy into the action and be on hand to nurse any wounded egos.

‘Celebrities On The NHS Frontline’, a two-part series for BBC One, follows ex-politician Ann Widdecombe, medical journalist Michael Mosley, reporter Stacey Dooley and Paralympic Gold medallist Jonnie Peacock as they work alongside members of the hospital teams they have been assigned to. The first of two episodes is broadcast on 28 June at 9 pm.

The BBC has a host of programmes to mark the birthday and on 5 July – the actual date – BBC4 is screening ‘The NHS: A People’s History’, a three-part series which tells the story of the NHS through the voices of the people whose lives it has affected, from its birth in 1948 to the present day.

In ‘UK Confidential: The Birth of the NHS’, Martha Kearney is allowed to open up the secret files at the National Archives and plot how the NHS was born amid controversy and dissent (Saturday 30 June 8-9 pm Radio 4).

‘Between the Ears: The NHS Symphony’ is a fascinating idea – the activity in different departments of two hospitals, one a maternity unit, one an A&E, combines in a specially-commissioned work incorporating the singing of the NHS choir and The Bach Choir (Saturday 30 June 9.30-10 pm Radio 3). From a baby’s heartbeat to the clink of a bedpan and the beep of a monitor, it’s the sounds of the NHS that make the music here.