The NHS should expect “big improvements” in cancer treatment, mental health services and the care of the elderly, the head of the health service in England has said as the NHS celebrates the 70th anniversary of its creation.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said that the anniversary of the health service was a chance to thank the staff – whose “brilliance” has led to the endurance of the NHS.
Events will be held across the UK to celebrate seven decades of free healthcare for all.
Mr Stevens told the Press Association: “The 70th birthday of the NHS is an amazing achievement so it is a chance to celebrate the successes we have had over seven decades. But really it is a chance to thank our staff, the million and a half staff – the nurses, the porters, the cleaners, the surgeons, the paramedics, the midwives, the health visitors, the scientists, the therapists. The huge army of care right across this country.
“And it is a chance to look forward – to think about all the brilliant medical advances we have had over the last 10, 20 or 30 years – what are the next 10, 20 30 years going to bring?
“There is every confidence that we are going to see big improvements in mental health services, life-saving new treatments in cancer, big improvements for the care of older people, as well as for our children.
“So if we get it right over the next 10, 20, 30 years – when we are looking back on the 80th birthday, or the 90th birthday or the 100th birthday of the NHS – we will see a further period of improvement. And that’s another good reason for celebrating.”
Mr Stevens also sent out a message to staff working across the health service, saying: “The reason why the health service does so well is frankly due to the brilliance of the staff.”
The day of celebration will see scores of buildings across the country – from the Eden Project in Cornwall to the Houses of Parliament – lit up in the NHS’s trademark blue in a nod to the much-loved service.
Thousands of Big 7Tea events are taking place across England to thank staff and raise awareness of NHS charities, while services will take place at Westminster Abbey and York Minster to pay tribute to NHS staff and patients.
Events will also be held in Manchester – where the health service was launched seven decades ago to the day.
In Scotland, health officials will join celebrations at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, while the anniversary will also be marked at an event in Stormont in Northern Ireland.
Celebrations have been going on for some time in Wales – which was home to the architect and founder of the health service Aneurin Bevan.
Yesterday, a special ceremony to mark the NHS at Llandaff Cathedral was attended by the Prince of Wales and Aneira Thomas, the first ever baby born on the NHS.
Speaking at the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards, an event honouring local health heroes from across England, on Wednesday, Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We were the sixth in the world to set a universal healthcare system and we have come to symbolise those values that say that here in Britain, everyone matters.”
He added: “It doesn’t matter who you are, rich or young or city or countryside, you should be confident that you can access good healthcare.
“In poll after poll, if you ask British people what makes them most proud to be British, they say it is the NHS ahead of any of our other national institutions.
“That is only possible because of the utterly extraordinary dedication of our staff.”
And at an event on Wednesday to mark the anniversary in Downing Street, Prime Minister Theresa May also hailed the “dedication” of NHS staff.