As way of introduction - I am a second year History and Political Science student at the University of Birmingham. As part of my study programme I was offered the opportunity to work at the Worcester Medical Museums to gain experience and to understand what working with a museum entails, and to complete a research project on any aspect of the National Health Service I liked (a lot more flexibility than I am used to in my university topics). The topic of the NHS was appealing to me, as I personally have family members who are long-time employees of the NHS and thought the opportunity to learn about such a key organisation in such depth was too good to pass up.
So far, I have been getting to grips with the general topic of the NHS, familiarising myself with the history, structure and scope of the organisation. This has meant sifting through the archives about health provision – and later the NHS – in the local area in The Hive which at first felt like it was all written in a different language, as there is so much information ranging from the 1800s all the way to the 2000s. After I gathered my bearings, I found some very interesting areas of the NHS that would be great to study in more detail which I intend to follow up on soon.
One of my favourite findings so far was some information on the changing role of administration within the health sector. Whilst at first I was not immediately drawn to the role of management and administration, an article titled ‘Kindly Technicians’ gave a very interesting in-depth account of how the role of NHS managers had changed immediately following the establishment of the NHS in 1948. The article suggests that prior to the NHS, administrators were seen as ‘kindly’ and rarely engaged in conflict with doctors but by the 1960s this role seems to have shifted from one of administration to that of a ‘diplomat’, due to increased conflict between doctors and management which caused administrators within hospitals to dedicate a lot of time to smoothing out these issues.
I found it interesting to think about how the setting up of the NHS actually impacted on the day-to-day running of hospitals. Today, there is perhaps less of a focus on the need for hospital administrators to be ‘kind’, with an increasing use of terms such as ‘targets’ and ‘efficiency’. This is not to say, however, that this is necessarily a failing of the NHS – efficiency is undoubtedly a key quality of any hospital. The more recent efficiency drive that has led to changes in the organisation on an administration level could be due to increased burdens placed on the NHS since its establishment.
 Mark Learmonth, ‘Kindly Technicians: Hospital Administrators Immediately Before the NHS’ Journal of Management in Medicine 12, 1998, pp. 323-330.