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NHS on Film

Film has the power to change lives – and even save them. No surprise, then, that moving images have played an important role in one of the world’s greatest public health services. 

Ever since the foundation of the National Health Service in 1948, talented filmmakers have aided the cause of Britain’s health via documentary, drama and animation. Films of the 1940s announced the creation of the welfare state, and moving image was soon being used for a host of other NHS purposes - from major public health campaigns (reaching their zenith in the form of the much loved Public Information Filler on TV) to fascinating recruitment and training initiatives behind the scenes. Later, an observant, and sometimes more critical, eye was cast on the health system by TV documentary and current affairs. This collection charts revealing changes in creative technique, public health and society itself.

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The DentistThe Dentist

199315 mins

This 1993 profile of local dentist, Brian Harvey, shows how he splits his time between a local practice and an advisory role - while leaving ample time to socialise at the local rotary club.

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Life in Her HandsLife in Her Hands

Instructional film/TV programme195155 mins

Kathleen Byron - of Black Narcissus fame - stars in one of the most ambitious recruitment films ever made.

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Natural Born SmokerNatural Born Smoker

Public Information Filler19851 mins

A sense of 1980s stylistic sheen filters through this sci-fi-tinged anti-smoking advert.

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Your Very Good HealthYour Very Good Health

Animation & Artists Moving Image19489 mins

Long before the ‘Charley Says’ campaign of the 1970s and ‘80s, another cartoon Charley was used to demystify the newly created NHS.

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The Strange Case of Penny AllisonThe Strange Case of Penny Allison

Training film/TV programme200218 mins

Imelda Staunton and Hugh Laurie as you've not quite seen them before: in a comedy training video for Britain’s National Blood Service.

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Polio - Diagnosis and ManagementPolio - Diagnosis and Management

Government sponsored film194859 mins

Britain’s first Polio epidemic in 1947 demanded a coordinated response, and this film was a key part of readying postwar doctors for a new fight

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New Way of CaringNew Way of Caring

Documentary197321 mins

An in-house training film designed to explain the NHS' 1973 reorganisation to its staff.

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Rehabilitation at Roffey ParkRehabilitation at Roffey Park

194629 mins Location: Roffey Park (College)

The treatment of World War II Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – filmed, astonishingly, in full colour.

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Here's HealthHere's Health

Public Information Filler194825 mins

A new start for Britain: this film tells us what to expect from a great new public service.

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You and Your HealthYou and Your Health

Documentary197922 mins

The Community Health Council of Wales blows its own trumpet in myriad ways, including animation, to draw attention to their NHS advisory service.

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Anti-smoking Campaign: Artery - CloggedAnti-smoking Campaign: Artery - Clogged

Public Information Filler20031 mins

One of the most gruesomely memorable of all British anti-smoking promos depicts fat oozing out of nonchalant smokers' cigarettes.

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C.A.L.M.C.A.L.M.

Public Information Filler19971 mins

A powerful public information filler promoting CALM – a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide.

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Towards a Better Life - Community HealthTowards a Better Life - Community Health

26 mins

A GP in rural Somerset and one in Kentish Town, London, reflect on “what is a General Practitioner in the 1980s?”

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Computer DoctorComputer Doctor

19745 mins

Reporter Michèle Brown visits London's Western Hospital, where a computer is on the medical staff to help doctors with routine doctor\patient consultations.

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Word of MouthWord of Mouth

198918 mins

Trips to the dentist are reimagined as Hellraiser-style horrors in this film aimed at helping dentists allay their patients’ fears.

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Out of TrueOut of True

Instructional film/TV programme195141 mins

An innovative drama-doc, one of the first to deal seriously with clinical depression

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"...And Then There Was One""...And Then There Was One"

Training film/TV programme196530 mins

Who will be the ‘one’? This medical drama-doc, exploring mental health and illness, is stylish, nail-biting stuff.

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Understanding AggressionUnderstanding Aggression

Documentary196023 mins

Eye-opening drama-doc, originally used in psychiatric nursing training.

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The British Way of HealthThe British Way of Health

Documentary197327 mins Location: London

A portrayal of the NHS which shows off the “marvellous” system to audiences around the world.

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Dr. Sam HuttDr. Sam Hutt

19688 mins

Rock'n'roll doctor Sam Hutt opens up on a twin career as popstar and healer in an intriguing, never-broadcast TV interview.

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His Fighting ChanceHis Fighting Chance

Government sponsored film194910 mins

Eleanor Roosevelt and Michael Redgrave narrate this optimistic post-war film on the rehabilitation of disabled people with polio.

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Something to OfferSomething to Offer

Documentary196922 mins

An interesting documentary on psychiatric provision, set at a Plymouth day hospital and originally produced for nursing recruitment.

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Hospitals for AllHospitals for All

Documentary194821 mins Location: Mauchline

The dark clouds of war part to reveal a silver lining for Scottish health.

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ChairboundChairbound

196410 mins Location: Stoke Mandeville Hospl

Do wheelchairs liberate or constrain? The early years of Stoke Mandeville hospital and the Paralympics.

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Nursing in the NHS: Spanish Nurses RecruitmentNursing in the NHS: Spanish Nurses Recruitment

Promotional20028 mins

Nurses needed: this early 21st century recruitment video makes fascinating viewing today.

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Passive Smoking: Smoking KidsPassive Smoking: Smoking Kids

20031 mins

Chilling anti-smoking public information film focusing on the danger that passive smoking poses to children.

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Learning in Slow MotionLearning in Slow Motion

Documentary196129 minsSilent

Patients at Epsom’s Manor Hospital learn new skills: an important record of changing attitudes about learning difficulty

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Britain's Health Services: The Family DoctorBritain's Health Services: The Family Doctor

Public Information Filler195513 mins

The working day is all go for a rural GP – from morning surgery to numerous home visits to patients.

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Doctor's DilemmaDoctor's Dilemma

Public Information Filler19481 mins

A fanfare to the new National Health Service

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Back to the CommunityBack to the Community

Documentary198629 mins Location: Bolton

Local authorities trial the Thatcher government’s new ‘care in the community’ initiative.

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Dying for a SmokeDying for a Smoke

Animation & Artists Moving Image196710 mins

What the Devil made you start smoking?

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The Smoking MachineThe Smoking Machine

Documentary196416 mins

Documentary warning children about the drawbacks of cigarettes – not least their addictiveness.

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Smoking and YouSmoking and You

School programme and Educational film196311 mins

The anti-smoking campaign starts here, with the first ever anti-tobacco film – and very impressive it is too.

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Blood Donor : Glenda and ErnieBlood Donor : Glenda and Ernie

Public Information Filler19813 mins

Glenda Jackson makes a song and a dance about giving blood – in a wise-cracking double act with Ernie Wise.

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Organ Donor Card: Organ BoxOrgan Donor Card: Organ Box

19931 mins

An urgently filmed appeal for organ donation.

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Blood Donor: DockersBlood Donor: Dockers

19751 mins

Brief TV filler aiming to boost blood donations, particularly among working men.

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Prevention of cross Infection: Respiratory Tract Infection in Children's WardsPrevention of cross Infection: Respiratory Tract Infection in Children's Wards

Documentary195314 mins

How an outbreak of streptococcal infection spreads – droplet by droplet – and how it can be prevented.

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Dust - Miners' DiseaseDust - Miners' Disease

197328 mins

Dark shadows in miners' lungs and lives, as the threat of pneumoconiosis is made worse by changes to the benefits that compensate for its effects.

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Mining Review 1st Year No. 11: Dust – RehabilitationMining Review 1st Year No. 11: Dust – Rehabilitation

194810 mins

Looking at the problem of miners who’ve developed pneumoconiosis, or dust disease

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Tracing the Spread of InfectionTracing the Spread of Infection

Documentary194923 mins

Doctors undertake forensic-style detective work to identify the origins of outbreaks, in the fascinating film from the early days of the NHS.

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Look after Yourself! An Explanatory Tape for Adult EducatorsLook after Yourself! An Explanatory Tape for Adult Educators

Documentary198321 mins

A lo-fi health advice video from the depths of the '80s offering a window into a land before lycra.

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Anti-smoking Campaign: ArteryAnti-smoking Campaign: Artery

20031 mins

A longer version of the famously icky anti-smoking promo in which cigarettes ooze fat.

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Mrs HodgsonMrs Hodgson

Inside Film196821 mins

"Won’t somebody please think of the patients?" A free-ranging interview on health services with the founder of the Patients Association.

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Richard RossdaleRichard Rossdale

196714 mins

The titular G.P. makes the case for an unrestrained American-style health service, as opposed to Britain’s supposedly bureaucratic system, in this interview with Barbara Kelly.

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Ralph SimonsRalph Simons

19688 mins

Bernard Braden interviews the head of a pharmaceutical company about a product which it's claimed can restore "youthful vigour".

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Smoking and Health - WomanSmoking and Health - Woman

19681 mins

A well-to-do woman is unable to answer her child’s cries due to a coughing fit, in this exaggerated anti-smoking advert.

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Smoking and Health - ManSmoking and Health - Man

19681 mins

A businessman smoker is forced to rethink his habit.

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Smoking and Health - TeenagerSmoking and Health - Teenager

19681 mins

Anti-smoking advert in which a young man’s attempts at suavity are interrupted by a hacking cough.

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A Gift of LifeA Gift of Life

198527 mins

Government-sponsored documentary exploring the challenges and triumphs of organ donation.

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Health at the CentreHealth at the Centre

Documentary19748 mins Location: Walton-on-Thames

The latest developments in healthcare on show at Walton-on-Thames community health centre

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The CentreThe Centre

194722 mins Location: Peckham

St Mary's Road in Peckham, London, is the location for a bold social experiment.

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Household RemediesHousehold Remedies

Public Information Filler19671 mins

A brief plea for the public not to waste doctors’ time requesting medicines easily obtainable from chemists.

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Dr Marc SleeDr Marc Slee

Cinemagazine196814 mins Location: Witney

Behind the scenes at the new Witney Health Centre where GPs, midwives, district nurses and social workers work efficiently under one roof.

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The Traditions of a Surgeon at ChristmasThe Traditions of a Surgeon at Christmas

Amateur film196217 minsSilent Location: Cambridge

The filmic memoirs in Cambridgeshire of heart surgeon Christopher Parish and his family, beginning with Christmas traditions, and including a royal visit. The year is 1962.

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Blood Is LifeBlood Is Life

Documentary195716 mins

There will be blood: a public information film that engages the mind and tugs the heart.

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Aids - MonolithAids - Monolith

Public Information Filler19851 mins

Portentous imagery and John Hurt’s grave voiceover define this key film from a £5 million campaign to combat the growing AIDs epidemic.

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Aids - IcebergAids - Iceberg

Public Information Filler19871 mins

Simple and devastatingly effective, John Hurt narrates a key advert from Sammy Harari’s 1986 AIDS awareness campaign.

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Hospital Team in ActionHospital Team in Action

Documentary196016 mins

Career opportunities in the 1960s National Health Services

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Day 359Day 359

197123 mins

An unusual, experimental documentary filmed over Christmas at South Ockenden Psychiatric Hospital, Essex.

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The District NurseThe District Nurse

Government sponsored film194212 mins

An indefatigable district nurse crisscrosses her rural patch to tend to the sick at home and on the farm.

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Defeat TuberculosisDefeat Tuberculosis

Documentary19507 mins

“Proper food and rest and plenty of fresh air” – and several months in a secluded sanatorium are the secret to curing TB.

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Complaints What Complaints?Complaints What Complaints?

Documentary198729 mins

“It takes courage for patients to complain” – and this training video considers three scenarios.

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National Blood Service: Chief Executive's up-date, November 2001National Blood Service: Chief Executive's up-date, November 2001

Sponsored film200119 mins

Martin Gorham presents a video update to his staff, outlining some of his department's past achievements and upcoming challenges.

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Modern Day NightingalesModern Day Nightingales

19785 mins

Gripping glimpses of modern nursing - on the frontline at Guy’s Hospital.

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Paul DeanPaul Dean

196821 mins

The social and political revolutions of 1968 seem a long way from the musings of a moderate Tory on the NHS and government .

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Health Services in BritainHealth Services in Britain

Documentary196214 mins

British healthcare leads the world: promoting British values overseas through the NHS.

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Northampton District Health Authority: Community Health and Other ServicesNorthampton District Health Authority: Community Health and Other Services

Documentary198132 mins

Third and final part of a series made to explain to new members and present staff the administration of the Northamptonshire Health District.

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Northampton District Health AuthorityNorthampton District Health Authority

Documentary198136 mins

The newly established health authority explains to its members the effects of a recent restructure.

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Northampton District Health Authority: Staff and Patient CareNorthampton District Health Authority: Staff and Patient Care

Documentary198139 mins

Second part of a series made to explain to new members and present staff the finances of the Northamptonshire Health District. 

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Alan AldingtonAlan Aldington

196813 mins

The President of the Pharmaceutical Society discusses the controversy around re-introduced NHS prescription charges.

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Wanted for LifeWanted for Life

Documentary19518 mins

A child's life is save through a blood transfusion and this incident demonstrate s the need for blood donors.

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Just in CaseJust in Case

Documentary195228 mins Location: Oxford

“No fuss, no bother” – everything runs smoothly in an Oxford hospital thanks to the work of volunteer reserve nurses.

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District NurseDistrict Nurse

Government sponsored film195227 mins Location: Wadhurst

Never a dull moment for a rural district nurse in the early days of the NHS.

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Anti-smoking Campaign (Wales): JaniceAnti-smoking Campaign (Wales): Janice

20031 mins

Straight-talking anti-smoking promo, which introduces us to Janice, a 51-year-old woman who uses a ventilator to breathe.