Nation celebrates ‘extraordinary’ NHS staff

Paramedics arrive to attend a service to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS at Westminster Abbey in London (John Stillwell/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

As the country celebrated the 70th birthday of the NHS, giving thanks for seven decades of free healthcare for all, it was remarkable to see how the health service has developed in that time.

Looking ahead to the future of the NHS, it is thought that artificial intelligence (AI) will be crucial to how it develops in the future, helping to create treatment plans for patients.

During the next 70 years of the NHS's life, patient data will be essential to improving patient care, enabling them to be resources to improve their future care and that of others.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of NHS England said the UK should give thanks to the “extraordinary” staff of the NHS, many of whom have shown “bravery at times of exceptional challenge”, chief executive Simon Stevens has said.

He was speaking at a special service at Westminster Abbey attended by 2,200 health leaders and NHS staff of the past and present, one of a series of events taking place to mark 70 years since the health service was founded.

In the North West, Britain’s first NHS hospital was celebrating the anniversary back where it all began with music, speeches – and the girl who helped serve Aneurin Bevan his breakfast on the day history was made.

Mr Bevan, the minister for health in Labour’s reforming post-war government, stayed at the home of the parents of June Rosen, then aged eight, the night before he launched the NHS at Trafford General Hospital near Manchester.

She helped her mother give him breakfast in bed, and later that day – July 5 1948 – her father, a local Labour councillor, drove him to Trafford, where he opened the first hospital in the world to offer free healthcare to all.

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.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, patients and NHS employees to celebrate the occasion at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, while the Prince of Wales met staff during a visit to Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan Hospital in Ebbw Vale.

Teenager Freya Lewis was given a rousing round of applause at Westminster Abbey after speaking of her own experience of the NHS after she was caught up in the Manchester terror attack.

Miss Lewis, who has gone through more than 70 hours of surgery and had to learn to walk again, said she owes her life to medics at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

“I don’t have the words to express how grateful I am to all the amazing staff who cared for me,” she said.

“I’m only alive and here today because of the incredible care I received.”

Dr Martin Griffiths, a top trauma surgeon who led a team treating victims of the London Bridge terrorist attack, also addressed the service, describing the NHS as “what is the best about Britain”.

He said that despite his years of experience: “There is a part of me that still finds it amazing to be a part of this fantastic institution that provides top quality medical care to any citizen that needs it, regardless of their income or background.”

Mr Stevens said the day was about giving thanks to the country’s 1.5 million members of NHS staff “for their service, for their skill, and for their compassion”.

“And for their bravery at times of exceptional challenge,” he added.

“Nurses volunteering alongside Ebola patients. Junior doctors with victims of terrorism. Ambulance crews, GPs and therapists at Grenfell.

“And, yes, once again the skill and the bravery of NHS intensive care staff at Salisbury District Hospital – probably the best hospital in the world to be caring for these new victims.”

The service was also attended by the Countess of Wessex, former health secretary Patricia Hewitt and Chancellor Philip Hammond.

During an evening ceremony at York Minster, Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the NHS helps make the public feel “proud to be British”.

Discussing its future, he said: “Nye Bevan was bold and ambitious in 1948. I think he would want us to be bold and ambitious today.”