Next generation of filmmakers to tell NHS Untold Film Stories

Marking NHS 75, AHRC and BFI partner to fund three new short films inspired by the BFI National Archive’s ‘NHS on Film’ collection.

NHS Untold Film Stories see three emerging filmmakers awarded up to £20,000 each to make new short films inspired by the BFI National Archive’s NHS on Film collection.

These new films will help to tell untold stories of the NHS, taking audiences on a journey across the UK and as far afield as India, to mark 75 years since the NHS was established in 1948.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), in partnership with the British Film Institute (BFI), the three filmmakers were selected from over 100 applications. Early in their careers, this opportunity represents the first major commission for these filmmaking teams.

Responding to the archive

The films either respond directly to the archive NHS on Film collection or creatively reuse extracts from a curated selection of films preserved by BFI to reflect on the gaps in the story of the NHS as told through film.

The filmmaking teams will involve the public in their creative process. They will work with their local communities or partner organisations to tell their stories and share their lived experience of either working in the NHS or accessing healthcare in 21st century Britain.

They will also have the opportunity to work with academic adviser for the project, award-winning filmmaker and researcher, Dr Shane O’Sullivan from Kingston School of Art.

A BFI Southbank premiere

The films will premiere at a special screening at BFI Southbank during the annual Being Human Festival 2023 in November.

After this, they will be showcased through local screenings in the places where the films were made and for the people and communities that inspired the themes behind the films.

The films will also be taken into the BFI National Archive and will become part of the NHS on Film collection.

The story of the NHS

AHRC Executive Chair Professor Christopher Smith, said:

The story of the NHS has been told in many ways, many times, and by many people over its 75 years of existence. But there will always be new areas to explore and new histories to shed light on.

These three talented filmmaking teams will offer fresh perspectives on the NHS, bringing to life its role in our national life and in all of our personal lives. Their work is underpinned by the power of arts and humanities research to help us better understand ourselves and our society.

Our national health experiences

Patrick Russell, Senior Curator (Non-Fiction), BFI National Archive, said:

Film was in at the ground floor of the NHS: ever since 1948, Britain’s filmmakers have been exploring and exploiting the links between the greatest medium of our times and our greatest public service.

Whether promoting it, recruiting or training its staff, or providing wider public information about health, the moving image has for generations been central to our national health experience.

The BFI has long preserved and curated this important part of our national screen heritage and is excited to see how today’s young filmmakers will respond to this heritage with their own contemporary creative responses, telling untold stories.

NHS Untold Film Stories


Sara David and her filmmaking team will create an experimental documentary that traces the compelling stories of three Indian women. The three women, including the filmmaker’s mother, trained together in India, became friends and came to work as nurses in the NHS in the 1990s.

David’s film will be based around a conversation over the dinner table where the friends come together and explore their interwoven and untold stories. It responds to the lack of ethnic diversity in the NHS on Film collection and uses audio from films in the collection.

Credit: Joni Roberts

Every moment counts

Dermot O’Dempsey’s animated documentary aims to demystify the complexities and share the raw emotions of children’s palliative care, creatively reusing NHS on Film archival footage.

The filmmaking team will collaborate with healthcare professionals, families and partner organisations Barnardo’s, Heard, St Oswalds and Spitfire Audio in the north of England and Scotland.

Credit: Dermot O’Dempsey

Dr XYZ: A Medical Drag Transthology

El Jones and Raviv Piccus’s film will engage the trans and non-binary community in Birmingham to compile their untold stories into a collaboratively written verbatim drag anthology on accessing gender affirming healthcare in the UK.

It is a contemporary and engaging update on the public information films within the NHS on film collection. The film aims to help healthcare professionals, and especially GPs, understand the challenges that the trans and non-binary community face.

Credit: TQ Archive

The NHS on Film archive

From the hundreds of archival films related to the NHS held in the BFI National Archive, 79 have been selected for the NHS on Film collection on BFI Player. Many of the films were commissioned by the Central Office of Information between 1948 and 2012.

Since the creation of the NHS, talented filmmakers have worked on dramas, documentaries and animations to produce a mixture of public information, recruitment and training films that cover a wide range of subjects relating to health and social care.

Over the 60 plus years of filmmaking, the films have reflected the changing nature of capturing healthcare on camera, a change in the focus of public health and bigger societal changes.

NHS 75

As part of its NHS 75th anniversary public engagement programme, AHRC has funded a writer-in-residence, Dr Kim Moore, who is attached to Trafford General Hospital in Manchester. The hospital was the first NHS hospital to be opened by Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan in July 1948.

Dr Moore will be supporting health workers to tell their own NHS stories through creative writing. It will culminate in an exhibition and anthology of creative writing produced by NHS staff and curated by Dr Moore. The exhibition will begin with a launch event in July at the Manchester Poetry Library and will run until September 2023.

Windrush NHS Stories is a parallel strand of the Untold Stories project. It will see Manchester City of Literature Community Champion Jackie Bailey supporting members of African-Caribbean communities to tell their stories of working lives in the NHS. This will mark the 75th anniversary this year of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush in Britain.

Top image:  Credit: TQ Archive

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