BBC to mark NHS 70th anniversary with season of programmes

A new slate of programming – including documentaries and dramas – is launching in June to celebrate the National Health Service

Jonnie Peacock and Stacey Dooley, Life on the Ward (BBC, EH)

The National Health Service turns 70 this year and to celebrate the anniversary, the BBC is launching a season of shows centred around the work it does.


Running from 25th June to 8th July, the new slate of programming will look at many aspects of the NHS, including its workforce, the hundreds of thousands of patients it sees every day, the history of the institution and what the future holds.

A 90-minute event broadcast live from a hospital on BBC2 has been pegged as the “centrepiece” of the season. It will be hosted by Nick Robinson and Anita Rani who will ask “the big questions” about the NHS today and its future, and will feature a live audience made up of patients and NHS staff with remarkable stories, as well as leading health experts and pioneers in medicine.

The film To Provide All People is set to be another highlight of the season. The drama, written by poet Owen Sheers, will “chart the emotional and philosophical map of the NHS and the personal experiences that lie at the heart of the service”. The extensive cast attached to the drama includes Martin Freeman, Tamsin Grieg, Michael Sheen and Meera Syal.

Radio 3 will mark the anniversary with a symphony composed entirely from the sounds of the health service and the words of its staff and patients.

Stacey Dooley and Jonnie Peacock are among those to have just finished filming Life on the Ward, a two-parter for BBC1 where a cast of celebrities spends time in one of London’s biggest and busiest hospitals, experiencing the challenges the NHS faces first-hand.

BBC’s Head of Current Affairs Joanna Carr said: “Our national health service is one of the most hotly debated, celebrated, and scrutinised British institutions.

“As the NHS marks a 70 year milestone, the BBC will launch an exciting season of programmes across television and radio looking at the history and the future of the NHS, with the help of independent research think tanks, famous faces, historians and of course, the many staff who work across all areas of the NHS.

“We hope this season of programmes truly embodies the BBC’s Reithian mission to inform, educate and entertain.”

The season will be broadcast across BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4, as well as BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4.


See the full list of NHS programming here.