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Happy Seventieth Birthday!

A celebration of the NHS, which was created 70 years ago

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the beginnings of the NHS and how we can support it today.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Happy Seventieth Birthday) and the means to display them.

  • Have available the YouTube video ‘The British National Health Service (1948)’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.24 minutes long, but you only need to show it from the beginning to 1.27 minutes. It is available at:

  • Optional: the Step into the NHS website, which is available at:, provides information for schools about careers in the NHS. It also holds an annual schools’ competition as part of this. This resource could provide useful follow-up material for work in PSHE.


  1. Have Slide 1 displayed as the students enter the room.

    Show Slide 2.

    Explain to the students that you are going to show them some images of famous people. You want the students to work out what all these people have in common.

  2. Show Slides 3-6.

    Read out the name and description of each person. Give the students time to study each slide and to consider what these people have in common.

  3. Show Slide 7.

    Invite the students to contribute their ideas about what these people have in common. (You may wish to show Slides 3-6 several times.)

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Even if a student gets the answer right, at this point, do not reveal the correct answer. Simply listen to the different suggestions and comment with ‘Hmm – who knows?’ or ‘It might be that – we’ll have to see.’

  4. Suggest that the next image might make the answer a bit clearer.

    Show Slide 8.

    Give the students a short time to consider what all the people on the slides have in common. If it is appropriate, listen to a few more suggestions.

  5. Show Slide 9.

    Explain that the people on the slides were all born in 1948, which means that they turn 70 this year. For example, Prince Charles will be 70 in November 2018 and Andrew Lloyd Webber was 70 in March 2018.

  6. Show Slide 10.

    Explain to the students that the NHS also started in 1948, so it turns 70 this year, too.

  7. What is the NHS, though? The letters in ‘NHS’ stand for ‘National Health Service’.

    Show Slide 11.

    - The NHS is the health service that everybody in the UK can use when they become ill or injured, to help them to get better.
    - It is ‘free at the point of use’, which means that people can be treated for free when they are ill.
    - It is paid for through taxes, which is money that UK adults pay to the government.
    - The NHS includes doctors, nurses, surgeons, ambulance drivers, opticians, paramedics, midwives, psychologists and all sorts of other people whose job it is to make sure that people stay healthy.
    - It started in 1948, because the government believed that everyone should be able to get healthcare, no matter how little money they had.
    - Before the NHS was set up, people would usually have to pay to get help if they became ill.
    - Everyone currently living in the UK can use the NHS if they are ill.

  8. The following YouTube video shows a public information film that was released in 1948 to help people understand what the new NHS would provide.

    Show the YouTube video ‘The British National Health Service (1948)’ from the beginning to 1.27 minutes.

  9. It is strange to imagine that before the NHS was established, many people could not afford to see a doctor, visit a dentist or have a midwife support them in giving birth. People just had to do without.

    Ask the students and teachers in the room to raise their hand if they were born with the help of an NHS hospital or an NHS midwife. Next, ask them to raise their hand if they have ever been treated by a doctor or dentist, or stayed in hospital.

    Point out that, even in one school, there are many people who have received help from the NHS at some point in their lives. Ask the students to imagine how many people must have been treated by the NHS throughout the UK.

  10. The NHS was part of the vision of the Health Secretary at the time, Aneurin Bevan.

    Show Slide 12.

    Here, we can see him talking to the NHS’s very first patient, a 13-year-old girl called Sylvia Diggory at a hospital in Manchester.

  11. Over the past 70 years, the NHS has changed and adapted. In 1952, prescription charges were introduced, so that many people paid a small amount for the medication that they received. In 1954, children in hospital were allowed daily visits from their family. Before this, they had only been allowed to see their parents for one hour on Saturdays and Sundays. In 2000, walk-in centres were introduced, making healthcare more accessible for people. In 2008, a programme to vaccinate girls aged 12 to 13 against human papilloma virus (HPV) was launched to help prevent cervical cancer.

  12. In 2018, the NHS faces many challenges. Currently, many NHS services say that they are struggling and need more money. One of the issues is that people are living for longer than they used to, which means that there are more elderly people. Older people are more likely to need the NHS’s help - and this costs money. As science progresses, increasing numbers of treatments and medications become available. However, these all cost money and the NHS faces the challenge of using as wisely as possible the money that taxation provides.

  13. There is no doubt that the NHS is worth celebrating because it is a wonderful service. The 1.5 million people employed by the NHS can be seen as modern-day heroes, working hard to improve the health and well-being of everyone in the UK.

Time for reflection

Let’s think for a moment about the things that we can do to support the NHS.

Show Slide 13.

You may have come across the Change4Life campaign, which encourages us to make healthy choices. One way we can look after the NHS is by taking responsibility for our own health.

Show Slide 14.

Another way we can look after the NHS is by being informed about the best service to use within the NHS when we are ill or injured.

Show Slide 15.

Some of us might like to consider training and a future career with the NHS, which is one of the UK’s largest employers. There is a huge variety of roles and jobs on offer. This is another way in which we can be part of keeping the NHS great.

We have taken time today to celebrate the seventieth birthday of the NHS, so let’s take time to reflect on and pray for the work of the NHS.

We think about the many patients and individuals who use the NHS: all those in hospital, accessing clinics and outpatients’ support, accessing mental health support and receiving health checks and advice.

Dear God,
Please bless these people.
Support them in their illness and pain.
We pray for healing and health for everyone accessing the NHS today.

Pause to allow time for thought.

We think, too, about the people who work in the NHS: the modern-day heroes. We know that it can be a difficult job at times.

Dear God,
Please bless these people.
Support them in their work and in their caring.
We pray for wisdom and energy for everyone working in the NHS today.

Pause to allow time for thought.

We think also about the people whose vision founded the NHS and continue to move it forward. We think about the politicians and policy-makers who have to make difficult decisions about how best to use the resources available.

Dear God,
Please bless these people.
Thank you for their commitment to the NHS.
We pray for clear thought and a vision.
We pray for good decisions to be made.

Publication date: July 2018   (Vol.20 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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