Nation comes together to applaud NHS on its 72nd anniversary

5 July 2020, 17:07 | Updated: 5 July 2020, 17:35

Players and match officials take part in minutes applause for NHS staff and key workers prior to the Premier League match at Turf Moor, Burnley
Players and match officials take part in minutes applause for NHS staff and key workers prior to the Premier League match at Turf Moor, Burnley. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Britain has paid homage to frontline heroes once again to mark the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the NHS, as the health service faces one of the most challenging years in its history.

The occasion was marked by a round of applause at 5pm to commemorate the efforts of all key workers and volunteers during the pandemic, which was broadcasted live.

A Spitfire with the message "Thank U NHS" painted on its underside was also flown over several NHS hospitals in the east of the country, finishing over Cambridge.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet NHS workers in the Number 10 garden on Sunday afternoon, while public buildings including the Royal Albert Hall, Blackpool Tower and the Shard have been lit up blue in tribute to the health service.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Friday, Mr Johnson urged the public to clap for "those who have worked tirelessly and selflessly to help the nation get through this pandemic".

More than 100,000 hospital inpatients have been treated for Covid-19 in the UK, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with many more who suffered with the virus at home.

Members of the armed forces constructed eight NHS Nightingale hospitals within weeks, which are all now being held on standby.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said hospital workers have only been able to pull the country through the pandemic thanks to a "national mobilisation" of all key workers, from care assistants and supermarket shelf-stackers to transport workers.

The Shard is lit blue in honour of the NHS as people are out in Borough Market, London
The Shard is lit blue in honour of the NHS as people are out in Borough Market, London. Picture: Getty
Protesters give a round of applause to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the NHS
Protesters give a round of applause to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the NHS. Picture: Getty

He said the NHS's anniversary is an opportunity to thank these key workers, adding: "I think for NHS there will be a sense of relief, having coming through this huge first spike of coronavirus patients, but also people have been working incredibly hard.

"So there's a need to take a moment to reflect and recharge the batteries while at the same time doing all the other brilliant things that the health service does.

"This is a huge national effort and the NHS is hugely grateful for all the support it has received from all of the rest of the country."

Sir Simon warned the NHS could have another "enormous job on our hands" if a second virus spike sweeps the UK at the same time as seasonal flu, and urged people to continue observing social distancing.

He said: "Going into autumn and winter, we are going to have to continue to be vigilant about the possible resurgence of coronavirus.

"Until such time as there is a vaccine, we know that it will be lurking across the world."

Katie Scott, an NHS speech and language therapist - who was deployed as an emergency Covid-19 nurse for five weeks at the height of the pandemic, turned 24 on the same day as the NHS's birthday.

While celebrating by having a socially-distanced picnic with friends at a London park the day before, she said she felt proud to work for the NHS.

Miss Scott, from Burley-in-Wharfedale in Yorkshire, said: "We are lucky to have the NHS and often take it for granted.

"The working culture is both supportive and really puts patients first.

"This combination makes me feel proud to work for the NHS, particularly when I see first hand us making a difference to patients lives and supporting those who need our help."

Annemarie Plas, who founded the #ClapforCarers initiative which lasted for 10 weeks following lockdown, said she thinks the NHS anniversary clap on Sunday will be a "beautiful moment".

She said: "We have had this first part of the crisis, we don't know what lies ahead, so if we can have this one moment where we say thank you to each other and recharge our batteries for what may be a heavier time that lies ahead, then I think that is a beautiful moment."

Ms Plas said she felt "very honoured" to be joining the Prime Minister for the "very special moment" outside Number 10 at 5pm.

She added: "I came here as a new mum in a new country and they (the NHS) really went beyond to track me down, to show me around, and really helped me, and that was really touching because we don't have anything like that in the Netherlands.

"So I feel very happy to be in touch with the NHS this way."

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