Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Nurse recruitment and training films feature in archive released to mark NHS 70th birthday

  • Comment

Films that once played a key role in nurse training and attracting people into the profession are among a collection of rare archive footage being released by the British Film Institute to mark the 70th birthday of the NHS

In all, 70 films, from 1940s documentaries designed to explain the new NHS to a bewildered public to iconic public health campaigns, will be made publicly available for the first time under the NHS on Film project.

Films aimed at addressing chronic shortages of nurses soon after the health service was founded include the 1951 docu‐drama feature Life in Her Hands, starring actress Kathleen Byron as a young widow considering nursing as a career.

The archive also includes a number of other recruitment films and training initiatives for nurses, many of which were never designed to be viewed by the general public, or indeed patients.

These include the 1960 drama‐documentary Understanding Aggression by pioneering director Margaret Thompson. Primarily produced as a teaching aide for student nurses, it explores the way staff should deal with psychiatric episodes among patients with mental health problems.

Other fascinating glimpses into nursing history include the 1978 programme Modern Day Nightingales, which describes aspects of modern nursing, focusing on intensive care at Guy’s Hospital in an age of advanced medical technology.

At the time, Britain’s nursing profession was attracting many recruits from Africa. The film, which is presented by actress Jumoke Debayo, is part of the Central Office of Information’s London Line magazine series, which regularly featured stories of African students involved in social work and healthcare

In addition, the archive includes pioneering anti‐smoking films from the 1960s, a wise‐cracking charity appeal for the National Blood Service starring Glenda Jackson and Ernie Wise, and the hard‐hitting 1980s AIDS Don’t Die of Ignorance awareness campaign voiced by John Hurt.

Meanwhile, the series also covers a resurgence in filmmaking within the NHS in recent years, as the growth of digital technology has made film making more accessible leading to more films being commissioned by national health bodies and individual NHS trusts.

More recent films in the collection include Public Health England’s multi‐million pound healthy eating campaign, Change4life, and behind‐the‐scenes productions like the 2016 film Seen and Heard used by the Department of Health to transform health professional’s understanding of child sexual abuse.

Other ground‐break footage includes the Barbara’s Story series of films commissioned by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to improve compassionate care for the elderly and people with dementia.

Dame Eileen Sills, chief nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’, will be among NHS experts and filmmakerstaking part in a panel discussion to look at how film has shaped the nation’s health at a launch event today.

The NHS on Film archive will be free to view on the BFI Player service from 26 June onwards.

understanding aggression 1955 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

understanding aggression 1955 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

Source: Understanding Aggression (1960) Crown / BFI National Archive

A scene from the 1955 training film Understanding Aggression

prevention of cross infection 1953 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

prevention of cross infection 1953 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

Source: Prevention of Cross Infection (1953) Crown /BFI National Archive

A film on the prevention of cross infection from 1953

nursing in the nhs spanish recruitment 2002 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

nursing in the nhs spanish recruitment 2002 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

Source: Nursing in the NHS Spanish Recruitment (2002) Crown /BFI National Archive

Nursing in the NHS, as shown in a 2002 Spanish recruitment film

life in her hands 1951 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

life in her hands 1951 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

Source: Life in Her Hands (1951) Crown/BFI National Archive

Still from the 1951 film Life in Her Hands

life in her hands 1951 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

life in her hands 1951 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

Source: Life in Her Hands (1951) Crown/BFI National Archive

Still from the 1951 film Life in Her Hands 

hospital team in action 1960 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

hospital team in action 1960 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

Source: Life in Her Hands (1951) Crown/BFI National Archive

Hospital team in action 1960

district nurse 1952 coi crown copyright British Film Institute national archive

district nurse 1952 coi crown copyright bfi national archive

Source: Hospital Team in Action (1960) Crown /BFI National Archive

District nurse in 1952

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.