Landmarks light up blue to mark NHS 73rd birthday and thank staff for contribution during pandemic

The Wembley arch, Liverpool’s Liver building, Salisbury Cathedral and vaccination centres across England are among dozens of sites set to be lit up blue today, to mark the anniversary of the founding of the NHS and the huge contribution of health service staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes as events are held across the country today to remember NHS workers who have lost their lives to the virus, ahead of the NHS’s 73rd anniversary on Monday.

NHS Chief People Officer, Prerana Issar, will attend a memorial service at the London Blossom Garden this afternoon, in memory of the NHS workers who died while caring for patients during the pandemic, and in dedication to the way the health service – backed by key workers and the public throughout – has worked together to care for 400,000 COVID patients in England’s hospitals.

The garden, at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, was planted as a living memorial and is a place to reflect, remember those who lost their lives, and pay tribute to key workers.

Later in the evening more than 70 landmarks around the country will light up blue, including sites that have been part of the world-leading vaccine rollout that has seen more than 65 million life-saving jabs delivered so far.

Some of the country’s most well-known landmarks and event spaces have been transformed in to vaccination centres since the world’s first approved jab was delivered on December 8, and those services lighting up blue will include Salisbury Cathedral, Bristol Football Club’s home stadium Ashton Gate, Basingstoke Fire Station, and Taunton Race Course, while at Stonehenge, flags bearing the NHS logo will fly above the prehistoric site.

Landmarks were encouraged to light up in solidarity with the NHS for last year’s 72nd birthday, and this year vaccination sites are also being encouraged to take part to acknowledge the vital role they have played for the NHS and the country.

NHS chief people officer, Prerana Issar, said: “Each of the colleagues who sadly died while caring for and protecting patients represents an irreplaceable gap in a family and a workplace. While this is a private event for families and some NHS colleagues, I encourage everyone to take a moment on Saturday to reflect and remember.

“It is no exaggeration to say that health service staff have helped to keep the country going during the pandemic, and while NHS staff have rightly been celebrated for their contribution, we know that the role played by other key workers – people keeping supermarkets open, refuse collectors, child carers and other public services – as well as the resilience of the general public, has helped ensure we can start to move forward.

“The best way for everyone to say thank you to NHS staff and other key workers is to join the tens of millions of others who have so far had their first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, and book your jabs today.”

NHS England chief nursing officer, Ruth May, said: “It has been an extremely challenging year for the country and for NHS staff in particular and it is important we reflect on our achievements with pride, and recognise the dedication and commitment of our amazing people who have made huge sacrifices, especially those who sadly lost their lives.

“It has also been a year of hope with the success of our world-leading vaccination programme now in its final push, and our 73rd birthday is a chance to celebrate that and say a huge thank you to our staff, our army of volunteers, and our local communities for working so hard to deliver the extraordinary rollout.

“This is a moment not only for the country to record gratitude for the NHS, but I think for all of us in the NHS to say thank you to everybody who has helped us, help you.”