Page last updated at 00:40 GMT, Saturday, 6 December 2008

Poem published to mark NHS 60th


NHS gets 60th birthday ode

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Nick Sharratt's NHS illustration
Illustrator Nick Sharratt was involved in the project
A poem has been penned to help children understand how NHS medical care works and honour the service in its 60th year.

When the NHS turned 60 in June, the nation looked back over six decades of free health care since the NHS's inception in 1948.

The first babies born under its watch were interviewed, while experts pointed out the innovations that revolutionised care.

But now the NHS is attempting to connect with a new generation.

This week it unveiled a poem it commissioned from children's laureate Michael Rosen and artwork by top illustrators including Helen Oxenbury, Tony Ross, Ed Vere, Axel Scheffer and Nick Sharratt.

"These are the hands" is designed to teach children about the NHS and its history.

Tito, aged 10, from New End school, Camden, studied the poem and the history of the NHS over the past few weeks and felt it had taught her something important.

"I really like the poem," she said.

I wanted to express the idea that it serves us cradle to the grave
Michael Rosen

"I thought that was really emotional.

"Children will really like the poem because it is sort-of like a nursery rhyme.

"When I went to hospital with my sister who needed her tonsils out she was all attached to tubes and I think having a poem like this to explain about hospitals might have helped her."

Heartbeat rhythm

Classmate Theo, aged nine, agreed: "I liked the way it had a constant rhythm a bit like a heartbeat.

"I think it would cheer up children going into hospital."

Teacher Steve Buzzard said it was a great educational tool.

"I think it is a delightful idea getting the children's poet laureate to write a poem celebrating the NHS at 60," he said.

"We studied the poem and found it a really good way of teaching the children about the NHS and how long it has been going."


These are the hands

That touch us first

Feel your head

Find the pulse

And make your bed.

These are the hands

That tap your back

Test the skin

Hold your arm

Wheel the bin

Change the bulb

Fix the drip

Pour the jug

Replace your hip

These are the hands

That fill the bath

Mop the floor

Flick the switch

Soothe the sore

Burn the swabs

Give us a jab

Throw out sharps

Design the lab.

And these are the hands

That stop the leaks

Empty the pan

Wipe the pipes

Carry the can

Clamp the veins

Make the cast

Log the dose

And touch us last.

Michael Rosen said writing the poem had been a wonderful opportunity to give something back to the NHS, which had cared for his family since its inception.

Mr Rosen said: "When I came to write this poem, I wanted to express the idea that it serves us cradle to the grave, but I also wanted to celebrate everybody in the service.

"There are many different kinds of essential work going on every minute of the day and I wanted to show that.

"The NHS brought my five children into the world, saved the lives of two of them (one had septicaemia and the other pneumonia), and gently nursed my parents through to the end."

Dr Sheila Shribman, the NHS national clinical director for children said: "It is fantastic and captures the essence of the care given.

"Children are on the whole healthier than they used to be, but there are still children who need to come into hospital and poetry is one of the important ways of communicating with them.

Professor Peter Hindmarsh, paediatric endocrinologist at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital said the poem should be widely disseminated.

"I think you could have it available in any of the NHS's distribution formats and you might want to include it with the hospital slip that goes out with appointments from hospitals for a new appointment.

"Children might have ideas, rightly or wrongly about what is going to happen to them and I think anything that helps bring down the mystery or anxieties must be applauded."

Print Sponsor

First NHS baby at Labour meeting
24 Sep 08 |  Wales politics
Devoted to the NHS for 60 years
02 Jul 08 |  Health

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