Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Conferences
  3. Conference 2016
  4. The trials, tribulations and rewards of being a 'NHS History Worker'

The trials, tribulations and rewards of being a 'NHS History Worker'

David O'Driscoll


In this presentation, I want to discuss my experiences of being a ‘NHS History Project Worker’ in Hertfordshire, a unique position. I was secondment for two periods from my role in psychological therapies, first in 2002 when Harperbury Hospital was closing, here the focus was organising a final closure event, then in 2007, when the emphasis was on protecting the patients’ medical records. The records were from the three main Hertfordshire hospitals including Cell Barnes and Leavesden and were successful protected. Although my history role was in main, practical and task focused, I also saw my role as putting history matters on the agenda for colleagues in learning disabilities services and even trying to engage wider groups. This has involved teaching, researching and collecting oral histories from former staff, hospital patients and family members. I was also interested in the political and therapeutic value of doing oral history with ex-hospital patients. I would like to take this opportunity in this presentation to reflect on these experiences and think about the varied responses this history generates.

Speaker biography

David O’Driscoll works as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist specialising in loss and bereavement for Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust. This involves individual and group work with service users as well as training and consultancy to staff teams. He has had two periods as NHS Historical Worker in Hertfordshire in 2001 and 2006. He is also a Research Fellow at Centre for Learning Disability Research, Hertfordshire University. David has recently re-started the Hertfordshire history group with Professor Bob Gates. His background prior to working in NHS has been in social work with over twenty five years of experience. From 2003 David was a director for the charity, Respond. He is joint conveyor for the learning disability section of the Association for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in the National Health Service (APP), founder member of the Institute of Disability and Psychotherapy (IPD) and is also a member of the Social History of the Learning Disability Research Group based at The Open University.

Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

About the website

If you have any feedback or would like to report a problem with the website, please contact