Special service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate NHS 75th birthday

Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh will be joined by NHS staff, senior government and political leaders, health leaders and celebrities at a service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the NHS 75th birthday next week.

The service, to be held at 11am on Wednesday 5 July, will include an address by NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard.

Guests in the Abbey paying tribute will include around 1,500 NHS staff, as well as famous names including Mel Giedroyc and other supporters of NHS Charities Together, the national charity caring for the NHS.

May Parsons, an associate chief nurse who delivered the world’s first vaccine outside of a clinical trial in December 2020, will carry the George Cross into the Abbey in a procession. May received the medal from Queen Elizabeth II, along with NHS England Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard and representatives from the other UK health services at Windsor Castle in July 2022.

She will be joined by 17-year-old Kyle Dean-Curtis, St John Ambulance cadet of the year, who wants to work in the NHS, and 91-year-old Enid Richmond, who was one of the first people to work in the NHS as a junior clerical worker and whose sister still volunteers in the health service.

Prayers will be read by Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay, Chief Nurse Dame Ruth May, NHS National Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer Professor Suzanne Rastrick OBE, and Richard Webb-Stevens, a paramedic who was first on the scene of the Westminster Bridge terror attack and who holds the Queen’s Ambulance Medal for Distinguished Service.

Testimonies will also be given by Dame Elizabeth Anionwu OM, the UK’s first sickle cell nurse, academic and author, Ellie Orton, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together and Dr Martin English and Dr Michael Griksaitis, NHS consultants who jointly led a team who evacuated 21 Ukrainian children with cancer over to the UK from Poland in March 2022, following the Russian invasion.

Dame Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “The NHS has truly been built upon the millions of hardworking NHS staff and volunteers who have shaped its course over the last three quarters of a century, constantly innovating and adapting to the new challenges they have faced – most recently the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected all our lives – to care for generation after generation, and it will be a fantastic honour to celebrate our health service’s 75th birthday and thank each of those incredible staff and volunteers at Westminster Abbey next week.

“As well as the service, there are countless events and special moments over the next week which everyone can get involved with, whether it be local parkrun events or the lighting up of over 150 landmark sites across the country, with many opportunities to not only look back on all that the NHS has achieved but also to look ahead to what new opportunities and innovations we can grasp in our next 75 years”.

May Parsons, Associate Chief Nurse at Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, said: “It was one of the greatest honours of my life to be one of those who received the George Cross from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth last year and it will be another enormous privilege and ‘pinch-me’ moment to carry the Cross as part of the procession into Westminster Abbey on Wednesday.

“The service and other activities next week provide NHS staff and volunteers, and everyone else across the country too, with a perfect opportunity to reflect on what the health service has achieved over the last 75 years and how far we have come.

“For me, it is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the moment I delivered the first vaccination outside of a trial to the brilliant Maggie Keenan, something which kick-started one of the highlights of NHS history – the hope the world leading vaccination programme gave the world – which helped get the country back to normal and saved so many lives”.

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive at NHS Charities Together, who will speak at the service on Wednesday said: “It was an honour to work in partnership with NHS England to support this special event. NHS charities have been working alongside the NHS since its inception, and I like to think of us as a mirror that reflects the public’s love and gratitude for the incredible workforce and all they do.

“Today that love is as strong as ever, as is clear from every donation made, every marathon run, and every volunteer who shows up. They do it to say thank you – and I hope that as we celebrate this incredible milestone, the people of the NHS know just how valued they are”.

NHS England is delighted to be working in partnership with NHS Charities Together to deliver this celebration of 75 years of the NHS and its workforce.

On Monday 3 July, the NHS will also announce the winners of a photography competition to mark 75 years of the health service. The competition, run by NHS England in partnership with Fujifilm, saw hundreds of NHS staff and volunteers enter with five categories celebrating people, innovations, environment, care, and partners. The winning images will be displayed at the Westminster Abbey service.

Across the country landmark sites will light up blue on Wednesday evening to mark the birthday, with people encouraged to take photos and share them via social media using the hashtag #NHS75 and #LightUpBlue. This includes the London Eye, Blackpool Tower and Salisbury Cathedral and the full list of sites can be found on our website.

All stamped post from 1 July to 4 July will carry a special birthday logo and The Royal Mint has issued a 50p coin to mark the occasion, with funds going to NHS Charities Together.

British artist Charlie Mackesy has created a special NHS75 illustration, to be released on Wednesday 5 July.

The winners of the NHS Parliamentary Awards will also be announced on Wednesday 5 July at a ceremony at the QEII Centre in Westminster with all nominees, their relevant MPs and other key figures invited.

NHS staff and volunteers will join local communities to ‘parkrun for the NHS’ at parkrun events on Saturday 8 July or junior parkrun events on Sunday 9 July. The events are supported by tennis star Andy Murray and local NHS teams will be on hand at the events to provide information about the health service and signpost to opportunities to support or volunteer.

A number of celebrities are helping to celebrate the birthday including the award-winning Hollywood actor, Tom Hardy, who will be reading Zog and the Flying Doctors on CBeebies Bedtime Stories on the night of the birthday.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “As we mark this milestone, we can be so proud of everything the NHS has achieved over the last 75 years.

“From its foundation in the aftermath of World War II, to the world’s first test tube baby and administering the first Covid vaccine – the NHS is an institution that deserves its title as a national treasure.

“I want to thank all the staff who have ever worked in the NHS, from the doctors and nurses caring for our loved ones, to the cleaners and porters keeping our hospitals in order, and our social care workers, paramedics, physiotherapists and many more who do an outstanding job, each and every day.

“As we look ahead to the future, I am focused on investing in our workforce to ensure it is properly resourced and adopting the latest technology so we can deliver on our commitment to cut waiting lists so the NHS can continue to provide the best care for patients”.