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[Perspectives] The NHS at 70: the story of our lives

“Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future/ And time future contained in time past” wrote T S Eliot in his poem “Burnt Norton” in Four Quartets, completed during World War 2. History is our compass for moving between past, present, and future. As the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) celebrates its 70th anniversary on July 5, I want to pose a set of questions around the importance of history for this unique British institution. What sort of history matters? Where do we find it? What does it tell us? How can we use it? The NHS anniversary is distinct from other historical events because there are still living witnesses.