SSLH-backed video puts Caribbean connection at the heart of Huddersfield’s NHS history

A new production from Kirklees Local TV (KLTV) offers a local perspective on the wider history of the National Health Service. Produced as part of Black History Month 2020, the video is made in partnership with the University of Huddersfield and received funded from the Society of Social History and the Society for the Study of Labour History.

It can be seen here.

The production highlights the contribution of African Caribbean people to the building of the NHS in Kirklees. It includes personal memories of working locally at Storthes Hall and in other local hospitals. It sets local experiences within a longer history of compassionate care that includes Mary Seacole and other early pioneers.

The production also acknowledges how knowledge of specific health-related needs including sickle cell disorder and thalassemia, diabetes and mental health has prompted healthcare initiatives and community self-help schemes. 

After being set up in 1948, the newly nationalised provision of healthcare was desperately short of staff. Unable to recruit closer to home, the British government began to recruit overseas.

Attention soon turned to recruiting directly from the Caribbean. People came to fill the acute shortages. This film captures some of their experiences and offers fresh light upon the local history of the NHS. The making of a national and much valued institution is told from the view of African Caribbean peoples who came and contributed to the nation’s healthcare as nurses, porters, cooks and in other roles.

As peoples of African Caribbean descent helped to care for the elderly, the mentally ill, the newly born and worked in ancillary roles, they encountered many forms of racism and discrimination. Undeterred by low wages, poor working conditions and often being side-lined into unpopular areas of NHS work, they became respected for their compassionate care and hard work.

Further information about the project can be found on the Kirklees Local TV website, and on the University of Huddersfield website. See also our earlier report on this project: Huddersfield’s NHS: the Caribbean connection.