NHS Voices of Covid-19

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a £1 million grant from the UKRI-AHRC Urgency Call to create a national oral history collection of Covid-19.


We are thrilled to have received AHRC funding. By building on the partnerships we’ve developed through NHS at 70 we will have a unique opportunity to capture the unfolding of this global pandemic and document how it has impacted our lives and communities

Dr Stephanie Snow, Project Director

Since 2017 - supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund – ‘NHS at 70’ has worked across the UK, talking to patients, staff, policymakers and the public about experiences of health and the place of the NHS in everyday life and work.


This grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council will enable us to link up with the British Library’s oral history department to create a permanent public resource which will also inform policy and practice.


NHS Voices of Covid19

‘NHS Voices of Covid-19’ will deliver an additional 900 interview sessions which will sit within the British Library’s wider Covid-19 collecting initiative. The initiative includes other streams of Coronavirus-related content spanning broadcasting, websites and listener-generated audio, video and written accounts. Together, these collections will form a unique and rich resource documenting life during the pandemic both in the UK and globally, for both researchers and the general public.

In parallel with collecting the oral history interviews, ‘NHS Voices of Covid-19’ will work with stakeholders to draw findings from the testimony through data analysis to support the development of learning resources such as briefings, engagement events, and digital resources that can inform policy and practice in the immediate post-Covid-19 period.

‘NHS Voices of Covid-19’ - is supported by a diverse group of stakeholders including the NHS, the TUC, Age UK, the Stroke Association and many other health, community and heritage organisations. Other participants in the project include patients, policymakers, frontline NHS staff, young people and individuals with high-risk conditions.

Since 2017, ‘NHS at 70’ has recorded over 1000 interviews with people across the UK about the history of the NHS and its place in everyday life and work. But as Covid-19 began to impact on lives and communities in March, our team of 150 volunteer interviewers suspended face to face interviews and maintained social connections by switching to telephone interviews. The response from interviewees was humbling and we have collected over 200 personal experiences of Covid-19, including Professor Nick Hart, a thoracic physician, who treated the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson for Covid-19. Click here to listen to excerpts from interviews conducted during Covid-19.


Our director, Dr Stephanie Snow, from the University’s Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health said: “Covid-19 is producing seismic shifts across lives and communities and its social significance in terms of a public health crisis is unprecedented in living memory.

“It is a watershed moment in the longer history of the NHS so we are asking how have public attitudes to the NHS changed, what does care mean and who should provide it?

“These are vital questions that we will only be able to answer if we document the effects and impacts on all our lives by capturing personal testimonies.”

Dr Snow added: “We are thrilled to have received AHRC funding. By building on the partnerships we’ve built through NHS at 70 we will have a unique opportunity to capture the unfolding of this global pandemic and document how it has impacted our lives and communities across the UK.”

Dr Rob Perks, Lead Curator of Oral History at the British Library said: “We are delighted to be working with NHS Voices of Covid-19 to preserve for the nation these important and moving personal accounts of a key turning point in British history, and in the history of our national health service. Together they will provide a uniquely comprehensive, diverse and in-depth account of how the NHS responded to the pandemic, and situate the stories about Covid-19 within the wider context of the entire history of the NHS.”

Professor Andrew Thompson, AHRC Executive Chair, said: “The ‘NHS Voices of COVID-19’ is a highly significant project that will create a valuable archive of people’s experiences of this pandemic. This promises to be fascinating in its own right and of great value in informing future policy. AHRC are delighted to support this joint project by the University of Manchester and the British Library as part of UK Research and Innovation’s open call for ideas that address COVID-19.”

David Renwick, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is a pivotal moment in our contemporary history, and we are really proud that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is able to support NHS at 70 to ensure these heartfelt and inspiring stories of this time are captured and safeguarded for future generations. The heritage of the UK is always evolving, and it’s fantastic to see this wonderful project expand even further.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “This project is such a powerful testament to the experiences of all the people who make our national health service what it is. 

“These are the voices of the people who went to work to save lives, to protect communities, and to give us care and dignity in our darkest days. These personal accounts tell the story of the NHS at a moment unlike any other, and of all the lives that have been deeply affected by this crisis. They are an essential addition to the ‘NHS at 70’ collection.

“Greater Manchester was the birthplace of the NHS, and 72 years later it remains a national service that unites us all. Never before has it faced the kinds of challenges brought about by the pandemic, and for that reason it has never been more important that we recognise and protect the NHS and its absolutely fundamental role in our society.”

Chris Larkin, Director of Stroke Support Services at the Stroke Association, said: “It’s vital to understand how Coronavirus has impacted on NHS services, such as the fantastic stroke teams we work with across the UK, and also the real life experiences of people affected by stroke at this time. That’s why we are supporting NHS Voices of Covid-19 to ensure stroke survivors and professionals can be involved in this hugely exciting project. Our thanks and appreciation to all the key workers who are supporting everyone affected by coronavirus”