Christmas in the NHS

Nurses dressed up on the ward

The NHS is at the heart of everyday life across the UK and celebrates many religious festivals including Hannukah, Diwali, Eid-al-Fir and Christmas.

Discover here stories of Christmases past through the voices of people who have worked in the NHS during the festive period.


Christmas in the NHS has always been a festive time with special treats—chocolates and sweets for patients. Listen here to Jane Milne, a retired midwife, reflect on her first Christmas working in the NHS, as a nurse on the children's ward in 1967. 

Special events on the ward helped both patients and staff alike over the festive period. Kathleen Connolly, who came to Manchester from Ireland in 1969 to train as a nurse, worked in the NHS for over 30 years. Listen to Kathleen reflect here on carol singing by candlelight on the ward.



Nativities, parties and pantomimes have been longstanding traditions in the NHS. Peter Sykes, a retired surgeon, recalls the social cohesion and feelings of togetherness when as as a house doctor at Manchester Royal Infirmary in the 1970s the staff put on a pantomime. Listen here to Peter reflect on this and sing one of songs!


Christmas dinner on the ward with roast turkey and all the trimmings was a highlight for patients and staff alike. One tradition troughout our interviews is how the consultants would come and carve the turkey on the ward. It didn't always go to plan though - listen here too Andrea Merrell, a nurse, reflect on the hilarity of one occasion in which the the surgeon dropped the turkey!

Despite all this festive cheer, staff and patients in the NHS at Christmas are still dealing with the everyday of life and death, sickness and health. This year, like every year since 1948, NHS staff and volunteers will miss social and family gatherings as they continue to provide healthcare for patients across the UK.

Listen here to John Mosley, a retired surgeon talk about missing out on family life, especially Christmas with his young daughter.


Have you been a patient or worked in the NHS during Christmas or other festivals? If so, please get in touch as we would love to record your story for our Digital Archive.