Huddersfield’s NHS: the Caribbean connection

The contribution made by the African Caribbean descent community (ACDC) to the NHS in the Kirklees area of West Yorkshire forms the focus of a local history initiative sponsored by the Society for the Study of Labour History.

Led by Professor Barry Doyle and colleagues at the University of Huddersfield, and working with not-for-profit community filmmaker Kirklees Local TV (KLTV), the project will result in a 30-minute digital production, provisionally set to go live on 16 October, mid-way through Black History Month.

The production explores the local history of the NHS’s changing relationship with the ACDC since its foundation in 1948. It traces the ACDC contribution to healthcare provision in and around Kirklees as nurses and trainee nurses, hospital auxiliary staff and also domestic workers.

Recorded interviews will trace memories of recruitment and training, entering Britain, career progression and legacy. This picture of personal experience within hospitals and NHS services across Kirklees will be supported by archival research, newspapers and secondary sources.

Over time, specific health and medical needs within the UK’s African Caribbean descent population gained recognition, including sickle cell disorder and thalassemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, prostate cancer and mental health. Community responses have helped the NHS to develop its own understanding and broaden its responses to the health needs of an increasingly diverse society.

The production has two overarching themes:

  • how overseas recruitment of people of African Caribbean heritage supported and strengthened the local development of the NHS; and
  • the less widely recognised story of how those people brought new awareness of specific health-related issues and contributed to the NHS’s evolution into a more inclusive healthcare system for all.

Putting the production together has combined recording both face-to-face and, where pandemic restrictions have made this difficult, via video links. The project has also had to rely to a greater extent on internet sources for background research because of restrictions on archive access.

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