Patient Voices

Historical and Ethical Engagement with Patient Experiences of Healthcare, 1850–1948

An interdisciplinary, policy-focused symposium
New College, University of Oxford
18–19 September 2017

 

In 1948, diverse health provisions in Britain were consolidated into a single, state-directed service. After almost seventy years of the NHS—the bedrock of modern welfare—there is great concern about any return to a mixed economy of healthcare. The proposed privatisation of health services is controversial because it threatens to destabilise the complex relationships of patients with medical professionals and the state. It calls into question the structure and accessibility of healthcare, as well as the rights of patients, both as medical consumers and sources of medical data. Yet these are questions that equally shaped the development of the NHS prior to its foundation. Historical perspectives on pre-NHS healthcare—perspectives that are increasingly informed by the experiences of patients—are fundamental to understanding not just the past but also the choices before us.

Social historians of medicine have responded in various ways to Roy Porter’s 1985 call for histories incorporating the patient view. But despite work across diverse fields, patient voices before 1948 are yet to be fully integrated into historical scholarship. This symposium brings together historians, medical ethicists and archivists with interdisciplinary expertise to explore questions relating to the accessibility and ethics of the study of patient voices and data in the specific context of pre-NHS provisions. Through research presentations, roundtable discussions and interactive sessions, participants will explore the collection and qualitative use of historical medical records. The symposium will focus on methodological issues by investigating a range of available archives and piloting new strategies for retrieving as-yet-unheard historical patient voices. It will also address ethical issues arising from these pilot strategies, including questions of data protection, informed consent and the implications of new technologies in storing and analysing information.

Following the symposium, participants will be invited to submit articles for a special issue.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers that address one or more of the following questions:

  • How should historians access and interpret the experiences of patients, particularly those with stigmatising conditions?
  • How can historians negotiate archival ‘silences’ when locating patient voices?
  • What can patient experiences tell historians about past, present and future interactions between healthcare consumers and providers?
  • How can the study of historical patient experiences inform the social, political and clinical dimensions of healthcare in the future?
  • What ethical considerations should inform the collection, maintenance and use of sensitive medical archives, including digitisation, data analytics and discourse analysis?
  • How can attention to these ethical considerations shape the study of healthcare and facilitate high-quality medical-humanities research?

Proposals should not exceed 300 words and should be accompanied by a short biography. Please submit them to Anne Hanley (University of Oxford) and Jessica Meyer (University of Leeds) at patientvoicesproject@gmail.com by 1 April 2017.

This symposium is supported by the Ludwig Humanities Research Fund.