Voices of the NHS Comic celebrates stories of the health service

British “reportage” comic creator Darryl Cunningham recently worked with the Warwick University history department to turn some of the stories they’d collected in their People’s History of the NHS project into a fantastic comic book, which you can read for free, online.

Voices of the NHS Comic by Darryl Cunningham

“This is decades worth of individuals’ stories from both NHS staff and patients,” says Darryl. “The book is a limited print, but the whole strip can be read for free on the People’s history site.”

It’s a wonderful, short tribute to our most-loved, much put upon public Health service, filled with stories from disparate voices that is well worth a read.

The Voices of the NHS Comic is a “thank you” to all those who contributed stories of their NHS experience from the team behind the ‘People’s History of the NHS’ project, which began back in 2015, enmeshed in a research project funded by the Wellcome Trust to explore the cultural (rather than the political) history of the British National Health Service.

Voices of the NHS Comic by Darryl Cunningham

“Our shared goal when we launched the ‘People’s History of the NHS’ website was to ensure that our NHS history – the stories we in the team write about the NHS, but also our collective national experiences of life with the National Health Service since 1948 – would be shaped by the people who have made and lived the NHS,” explains Roberta Bivins, “patients, practitioners, staff, activists and the general public. That is why we have been asking not just for your amazing, revealing, and sometimes disturbing stories, but also for your questions and ideas. You have shared them with us generously, both online and through our programme of community events and Roadshows.

“As a result, we have been able to curate a history that reflects perhaps our most important finding: the degree to which this national institution, now past its 73rd birthday, has become integrated into the life of the nations that make up the United Kingdom.

Voices of the NHS Comic by Darryl Cunningham

“For many, we have found that the NHS represents the best of what it means to be ‘British’, and symbolizes values that we aspire to enact – egalitarianism, inclusiveness, respect, and compassion – even though we may fail as individuals and a nation to deliver on them completely. Completing our project in Covid times, we as a nation (and as four nations) have seen the NHS in extremis, and as individuals have relied on it perhaps more than ever before. Responses to the pandemic have confirmed and amplified the symbolic power that the National Health Service exerts, but also the dangers that come with shared NHS narratives of exceptionalism and heroism.

“… We are glad that our Encyclopaedia of the NHS, our NHS Virtual Museum Galleries, blogs, and most of all, your stories show us the NHS everyday,” she notes in a longer tribute to all those who took part. “For good and for ill, in emergencies and in normal times, it seems, the NHS shapes our lives. Britain’s largest workforce, its most diverse, reaching into every community and every home, the NHS is also international: from 1948 until today it has been staffed by and has served people from around the world. For me, as an immigrant, this is almost as miraculous as the fact that here in the UK, we can see in practice what is elsewhere often just an ideal: the provision of healthcare as a human right, not a commodity.”

• You can read Roberta’s full thoughts on the NHS Project here and download the Voices of the NHS comic by Darryl Cunningham (large PDF) here

Check out Darryl Cunningham’s blog here

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2 replies

  1. Hi John,

    Any info on whether the limited print edition is available to purchase.

    • The NHS History team say the book isn’t available to purchase, if someone needs a print copy for accessibility, they might be able to help. Better to download a copy and print

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