When the NHS was founded in 1948, it was born out of the conviction that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. It now relies on the hands and hearts of more than 1.5 million staff. It is rare that we hear their voices.

This anthology offers a unique insight into the experience of the people at the heart of the NHS – from the student nurse at the start of his career to the heart surgeon on the eve of her retirement. We hear the stories of those whose vital work is often unseen and unsung – the cleaning staff, librarians, administration staff, psychologists, occupational and speech and language therapists, sign language interpreters and clinical scientists.

We have also had generous donations of poems for this by leading UK authors and poets including Michael Rosen, Roger McGough, LemnSissay, Sabrina Mahfouz, Kate Clanchy, Sam Guglani, Charly Cox, Molly Case, Sheenagh Pugh, Wendy Cope and the estates of U.A. Fanthorpe, Elaine Feinstein, Dannie Abse and Julia Darling.

These poems offer unflinchingly honest and intimate accounts from the people who care for us from the moment of birth to the end of life. In crystallising the most beautiful and painful moments of being human, they speak directly to all our experience and in doing so, make us feel more connected and less alone. Above all this book is about our shared humanity and the compassion and care that lie at the heart of the NHS and in all our lives. They remind us of what Wordsworth called ‘the best portion of a good man’s life: his little, unremembered acts of kindness and love’.

At the same time, they serve as a stark reminder of the human cost of trying to offer compassionate care in a system that is underfunded and understaffed and the importance of showing the same compassion and support to the staff we depend on to hold the NHS together. All proceeds from this book will go to NHS Charities Together which supports over 140 official NHS Charities raising money for NHS hospitals, ambulance services, community and mental health services across the UK.

These are The Hands
The Editors
NHS Charities Together
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