This PSHE assembly educates pupils on the National Health Service (NHS) and its development. It also encourages students to think about the physical, mental and spiritual health issues that affect them


You will need two readers.


Reader 1: The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded healthcare system in this country – a system paid for from taxation. The NHS provides healthcare to everyone in this country and is free.

Reader 2: The NHS provides the majority of healthcare in England, although there are some who choose to go to private hospitals and clinics. The National Health Service came into being on 5 July, 1948, after the Labour Party had passed a law, despite the fact that many people had opposed it.

Reader 1: The Labour politician, Aneurin Bevan, the newly appointed health minister, was given the task of introducing the National Health Service, which he, in part, based on his experience of a free hospital in his native Wales.  Doctors were, to begin with, opposed to the NHS and tried to fight against it. Bevan had to get them onside, as, without doctors, there would be no health service. Being a shrewd politician, Bevan tried to win them over, by making sure their concerns were addressed. In July, 1948, Bevan’s dream of a free healthcare system began.

Reader 2: One big influence on the development of the NHS had come from a novel that had been published ten years before. Dr A J Cronin’s novel, The Citidel, published in 1937, had made people aware of many problems that there were in making sure that all sick people were cared for.

Reader 1:  Millions of citizens had been unable to afford to go to hospital, or to go to a doctor… Now, with the NHS in existence, every single person has access to quality health care.

Reader 1:  The costs of running the NHS in 2007/08 is estimated at a hundred and four billion pounds. The NHS is the world’s largest health service, and the world’s third largest employer, after the Chinese army and the Indian railways.

Reader 2: Think about the last time that you went to hospital.

Reader 1: Think about the care that you received there.

Reader 2: The people who were committed to making sure that you were helped.

Reader 1: Think about the members of the family who have benefited form the care of a doctor, of a hospital or a nurse.

Reader 2:  We take these things for granted.

Reader 1:  Until we need them, or our family do.

Reader 2:  But think what the world would be like unless…

Reader 1: …there were people who were willing to help your physical and mental health.

Reader 2:  We are all people who can bring health to ourselves and to others. Our choices matter.


Leader: In Jewish thought, the word ‘shalom’ is quite often translated as ‘peace’. But this word just does not mean the absence of war. The ‘shalom’, the ‘peace’ here is the peace that influences our physical, mental and spiritual health. We need to realise that health isn’t just about our bodies, but can be about all of these aspects of ourselves.

We most often think about health as being the physical side of us. Most of what a hospital does is about bodies. Broken bones, strained muscles, trying to get rid of a disease, or a cancer, perhaps to bring a new life into being in the maternity suite. Many times we might go to the hospital for some mistake we made. Think of how much time is spent in hospitals dealing with the consequences of people’s bad decisions to treat their bodies – by overeating, overdrinking or smoking. We all will make mistakes, but we should, therefore, be grateful that there will be medical people prepared to help us.

Increasingly, we are realising that many people are suffering from mental health issues. It is estimated that, during our lifetime, one in three of us will have a major mental health issue – it might be depression, grief or stress. Recent figures suggested that twenty per cent of people at any one time are dealing with some mental health issue – either their own, or someone they know and love.

‘Shalom’ is also about spiritual health. Religious people might see their spiritual meaning as being found in a relationship with God or doing his will. Whether you are religious or not, living a life with no sense of meaning can be very troubling, and will affect your physical and mental health. Victor Frankel was a man who survived the concentration camp that he had been sent to as a child. When he later qualified as a doctor, he made a study of people who had mananged to survive one of the camps, and, seemingly, had very few mental or physical problems. He discovered that, if they had some reason for surviving – be that a belief in God, or being fortunate enough to know the love of someone else – they were more able to cope with things. It did not make things always easy, but it did make them see what was important and what was not.

So, let us celebrate the NHS. Let us be people who take care of our physical, mental and spiritual health.


You may use this as a prayer or an affirmation: Health comes in many forms – Physical, mental and spiritual. May I always lead a life which makes healthy choices For myself and for others in all these ways. Health is a gift that I should not take for granted. May I be grateful to those who work To preserve or restore the health of others. For doctors, nurses, ambulance crew and paramedics. May I always be thankful for their training and their commitment to helping others. May I be a person who puts others at their ease, Allows them to fulfil their aspirations. May I act in a way to make sure that Others’ health is protected and cherished. Let shalom – a peace through my mind, heart and body Be mine and be what I share with those I come into contact with.


This e-bulletin issue was first published in July 2008

About the author: Cavan Wood