Gillian Taylor, Napier University The UKAHN Bulletin
Bruce Harper-McDonald, Napier University Volume 7 (1) 2019
Siobhan O’Connor, University of Edinburgh

An enthusiastic team of nursing and midwifery academics organised a public exhibition and NHS Big 7 Tea party on Thursday 5th July 2018 at Edinburgh Napier University’s Sighthill campus to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service (NHS). Led by Gillian Taylor, the five strong team spent several months pulling together a fun filled day of activities for staff, students, health and care professionals, and the public to enjoy (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: NHS 70th celebrations organising committee selfie (L-R: Siobhan O’Connor, Bruce Harper-McDonald, Margaret Moran, Gillian Taylor, Connie McLuckie)

With help from marketing, information services and print services in the university, the free exhibition entitled “Celebrating 70 years of Nursing and Midwifery in our NHS Scotland” aimed to raise awareness of the history and evolution of nursing and midwifery education, research and practice. In particular, they wanted to highlight the role of nurses and midwives within Scottish/UK society from the inception of the National Health Service in 1948 to 2018.

For this a series of decade posters with historical photographs and fun facts from the 1940’s to present day were designed and displayed (see Figure 2). Colleagues from Lothian Health Service Archive at the University of Edinburgh ( were helpful in pulling together old images of nurses and midwives in action across various parts of the NHS in Scotland.

Figure 2: Exhibition posters of each decade of the NHS

The team were also keen to raise awareness of academic and clinical career pathways within nursing and midwifery and opportunities for interprofessional education, research and practice and so they integrated a quiz with prizes for the top three fully correct answers to all ten historical questions into the exhibit to encourage public participation. This created quite a queue at the exhibit!! A second-year nursing student won the overall prize of a £70 Blackwell book voucher, with second and third prizes being awarded to administration staff at the university who took part.

The exhibit was launched by Professor Tracy Humphrey, Dean of the School of Health and Social Care at Edinburgh Napier University and the attendees enjoyed tea, coffee and seventy delicious cupcakes courtesy of a local baker who whipped up NHS inspired yummy treats that were quickly devoured as part of the NHS Big 7 Tea party (

Donations kindly received on the day amounted to £138.06 and these monies will be divided equally between two Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation Funds; The Labour Suite Education and Equipment Fund and The Specialist Palliative Care Fund. The Royal College of Nursing Scotland also supported the event with a stand displaying key nursing artefacts, documents and images (see Figure 3). One such object was the “Case of Memories” which contains district nursing items or replicas (e.g. bandages, surgical spirit, antiseptic cream along with nursing stories) which was designed to facilitate reminiscence and the sharing of memories. Alison O’Donnell from the RCN History of Nursing Society, a keen nursing historian, popped along to answers questions from inquisitive visitors about the origins of nursing.

Figure 3: The Royal College of Nursing Scotland display stand

Two interactive “Memory Trees”, one for autumn and spring, were also showcased and people invited to write and post their experiences of nursing and midwifery in the NHS and hopes or aspirations for the future of the health service. Examples of messages people left included:

“My Gran was 10 and remembers the day the NHS became free to all. I called her this morning and she said to have a cup of tea on her behalf”

“I fainted in theatre due to the heat and sight of blood”

“I’m hoping the NHS get a bigger budget to improve services and get positive feedback in all aspects”

“To continue for another 70 years. We are so lucky to have the NHS”.

A series of ‘vox pop’ videos of retired and current nurses and academic staff and students talking about their experiences of working in the NHS and education was pre-recorded by the team and those they could wrangle into being filmed and screened throughout the day so people could sit and listen to range of real-life stories about what ward or community life is really like. This is now available to view on YouTube here:

A popular hit amongst visitors while they were browsing the exhibit was a selfie-booth, where old nursing uniforms and props could be worn, and images taken on a standalone machine that printed the photos for people to take away (see Figure 4). The exact number of selfies taken cannot be disclosed but the machine almost broken down at one point in the afternoon from over use! As the exhibit

Figure 4: Selfie Board

wound down the organising team decided to take it on tour as it had been such as hit with staff, students and the public who dropped in to see it. So, keep an eye out for it at a local hospital near you and don’t forget to share it on social media by using the hashtag #NHS70 and #NHSScot70 @EdinburghNapier to continue celebrating 70 years of nursing and midwifery in the NHS.


We gratefully acknowledge funding for this project from the School of Health and Social Care at Edinburgh Napier University and the invaluable support and expertise provided by the university’s Marketing, Information Services, Print Services, and Facilities and Estates teams without whom the exhibition would not have been possible.