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Episode 2

A series telling the story of the NHS through the voices of the people whose lives it has affected. This episode covers a period in which the NHS expands beyond all recognition.

This episode covers a period in which the NHS expands beyond all recognition as it is forced to evolve and adapt to the needs of an ever-growing, and ever more diverse population, all against a background of social strife and the increasing pressures to privatise. Amongst the highly cherished artefacts shown are the personal letters of Dr Elphis Christopher, a family-planning specialist who received death threats when she dared advocate sex education in schools, the NHS wigs given to Grand National-winning jockey Bob Champion when he underwent a then revolutionary form of chemotherapy for testicular cancer and the pram and teddy bear of Alastair Macdonald, the world's second, and the NHS's first, test-tube baby.

This era of 1973 to 1997 was a time of extreme social change and the NHS was forced to adapt accordingly. Neurosurgeon Alan Crockard reveals a small titanium plate he and his colleagues in Belfast invented at the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland to insert into head wounds, an innovation that in his words 'helped people survive the unsurvivable'. Wendy Watson, the first woman in Britain to have a pre-emptive double mastectomy, shares the handwritten letter she received from Princess Diana, thanking her for her work raising money for breast cancer screening. And mum of two Rosemary Cox shows the brooch her dying son gave her, shortly before his tragic death from a brain tumour became the catalyst for her campaign to create of the UK's Organ Donor Register.

59 minutes

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Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes


Role Contributor
Presenter Alex Brooker
Series Producer Zoe Jewell
Executive Producer Eve Kay
Director Kemi Majekodunmi
Production Company 7 Wonder Productions


How much do you know about the NHS? Test your knowledge with The Open University

Visit OpenLearn, the OU’s home of free learning, to find out more about the NHS.

The University of Warwick: People's History of the NHS

For more on the history of the NHS, go to Warwick University’s site.