from Pam Schweitzer

‘Can We Afford The Doctor?’ was created in 1985 from the memories of older people of health care before the National Health Service. The interviews were mainly conducted by the play’s writer, Joyce Holliday, with individuals and with older people’s groups. Interviewees included older people who had brought up large families on tight budgets, who had made the best of home cures and tips from friends and neighbours, delaying calling the doctor until the last possible moment because of the expense. We also interviewed retired doctors and nurses, recording their experience of the changeover to the NHS in 1948. Older people attended the rehearsals to support the actors and to lend greater veracity to ‘their scenes’ in the  production.

The process of creating this play, from interview to final production, was recorded by Television History Workshop, an independent television company for Channel 4 Television. The resulting 90 minute documentary film was aired twice on Channel 4 and is included in its entirety on this website via

The production was generously funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Tudor Trust, the London Boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham, Southwark, Lambeth and the Inner London Education Authority. It toured across the UK in 1985 and was revived in 1988 and 1998 to celebrate the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the start of the NHS.

This page was added by Pam Schweitzer on 22/11/2013.