The NHS: A People’s History review – Britain at its best and its worst

This documentary on the early years of the health service shares tales of derring-do – and painful accounts of racism, mistreatment and misogyny

In a south London house plastered with posters tracking 40 years of fighting for the NHS, June Hautot brings out a little booklet her father kept in his pocket. What is inside? A list of the family’s expenditure on doctor’s fees that tells a concise, brutal story of what life before the NHS looked like. Every visit to the Gp, of which there were many, because Hautot’s mother had cancer, cost five shillings. “And our rent was eight shillings,” Hautot says. “People lived in fear of being sick.”

So begins Alex Brooker’s tremendously moving crowdsourced story (BBC Four), told through a polyphony of voices and objects from up and down the country as our critically endangered health service wheezes its way towards 70. Watching the first of three episodes,
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