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These Are The Hands – Poems from the Heart of the NHS


NHS Poetry Anthology – by NHS Staff about the NHS – FOR the NHS

There is an ePub edition available here for £5 with all monies going to the NHS Covid-19 Emergency Fund

There is a kindle edition available on amazon, also £5 with all profits going to NHS Covid-19 Emergency Fund

Money donated to Covid 19 NHS Emergency fund is increasing all the time. its at £11,000 in August 2020
£10.99 (includes p&p)

ISBN 978-1-911048-40-4
All Profits donated to “NHS Charities Together” – CORVID 19 EMERGENCY FUND


‘This is the writing wing of the NHS. This is where the open heart surgery is. What a beautiful operation. Read on’ – Lemn Sissay

‘A wonderful anthology to celebrate the NHS, which is itself the best poem a country has ever written’ – Stephen Fry

This is a beautiful book: heartfelt and intimate’ – Adam Kay

‘Every ward and waiting room should have a copy’ – Simon Armitage

‘The very heart of who we are and what we are here for. An exciting and wonderful book’ – Michael Rosen

‘It will inspire the next generation of health workers’ – The Nursing Times  full review here

‘This astonishing collection demonstrates an astonishing range of stories from the very heart of our health system.’ – Oxford Poetry Libraryfull review here

‘Every home should have one: this testament to what it’s really like on that front-line’ – Write Out Loudfull review here

‘It collects poems from across the health service, from doctors to cleaners’ – The guardianfull review here

‘The first poetry anthology to give a voice to NHS staff at a critically important time for the NHS and its future’ – The Psychologist…full review here

‘A timely one’ – David Nicholls

‘Fearless, reverent and incredibly touching, this beautiful anthology illuminates and supports the vital work of the ones who care for us, from the moment of birth to the end of life’ – Waterstones

‘Accessible and engaging. While many of the poems in this anthology are intensely moving, there is plenty of humour’ – BJGP (British Journal of General Practice) – full review here

‘A unique insight into the real experiences of the people at the heart of the NHS’ – Atrium PoetryBook of the Month


This anthology offers a unique insight into the real experiences of the people at the heart of the NHS – from the student nurse at the start of his career to the heart surgeon on the eve of her retirement. We also hear the stories of those whose vital work is often unseen and unsung from domestic cleaning staff to sign language interpreters. The poems offer unflinchingly honest and intimate accounts from the people who care for us from the moment of birth to the end of life. In crystallising the most beautiful and painful moments of being human, they speak directly to all our experience. Above all these poems are about our shared humanity. They are about the compassion and care that lie at the heart of the NHS and in all our lives. They also serve as a stark reminder of the human cost of trying to offer compassionate care in a system that is underfunded and understaffed and the importance of showing the same compassion and support to the staff we depend on to hold the NHS together. Leading UK poets have donated poems to this anthology including Michael Rosen, Roger McGough, Lemn Sissay, Sabrina Mahfouz, Kate Clanchy, Sam Guglani, Charly Cox, Molly Case, Wendy Cope and the estates of UA Fanthorpe, Dannie Abse and Julia Darling. All proceeds from this book will go to NHS Charities Together which supports over 135 official NHS Charities raising money for NHS hospitals, ambulance services, community and mental health services across the UK.

About the Editors:

Deborah Alma is a UK poet who teaches Creative Writing at Keele University. She has worked using poetry with people with dementia, in hospice care, with vulnerable women’s groups and with children in schools. For the last 8 years she has run a project called the Emergency Poet offering poetry on prescription from her vintage ambulance. She is editor of Emergency Poet- An Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology; The Everyday Poet- Poems to Live By; #Me Too – Rallying Against Sexual Harassment- A Women’s Poetry Anthology and Ten Poems of Happiness. Her first, full collection, Dirty Laundry is published by Nine Arches Press. She co-founded the world’s first walk-in Poetry Pharmacy in Shropshire with her partner the poet James Sheard in 2017.

Dr Katie Amiel is a GP working in Hackney, London. She is a member of the Royal College of General Practioners’ (RCGP) Wellbeing Committee, is a trained teacher of MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) and has run many workshops, courses and training events on health professional mental health, wellbeing and compassion including work for the Practitioner Health Programme. She founded The Bigger Picture, a collaborative project with the RCGP and the Faculty of the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy, Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. This aims to improve health professional wellbeing and patient care by offering a wider perspective including the arts and humanities and give opportunities for healthcare staff to develop, showcase and celebrate their creative talents. Its key themes of connection, compassion, creativity, curiosity and contemplation are being explored through inspiring talks, events, workshops, exhibitions, a literary festival and this anthology.

Twitter: @Bigger_Pict

Website: where you can read more and also see videos of Michael Rosen. Lemn Sissay and Molly Case read their own poems in the anthology and even see Simon Callow read a couple!

Other Videos: you can see NHS Staff read their own poems in the anthology on the These Are The Hands youtube channel

These Are the Hands by Michael Rosen
for the 60th anniversary of the NHS

These are the hands
That touch us first
Feel your head
Find the pulse
And make your bed.

These are the hands
That tap your back
Test the skin
Hold your arm
Wheel the bin
Change the bulb
Fix the drip
Pour the jug
Replace your hip.

These are the hands
That fill the bath
Mop the floor
Flick the switch
Soothe the sore
Burn the swabs
Give us a jab
Throw out sharps
Design the lab.

And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose
And touch us last.


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