The coronavirus pandemic means the NHS has been through a year like no other. It has been an extremely challenging year for the NHS, and the country as a whole, but also a year of hope.
Hospitals have cared for around 400,000 seriously ill COVID-19 patients, including more than 100,000 admitted in January alone, along with millions more besides.
At the same time the NHS has rolled out the biggest vaccination programme in health service history; the fastest in Europe and most precise in the world.
The NHS could not have achieved all this without the skill and dedication of our people along with the support of thousands of returners, volunteers, other keyworkers and, of course, the public who played their part by following the social distancing rules.
The NHS’s 73rd birthday offered us all a chance to say a big thank you.
Whether it was a member of staff or a whole team, a member of the public, an organisation or a community, we took a moment to say thank you to those who have worked so hard or who have helped out over the last 12 months.
We also wanted to take the opportunity to promote the over 350 different careers available across the NHS in England. Recruiting and retaining more staff will be vital as we seek to tackle the backlogs that inevitably built up while hospitals cared for hundreds of thousands of COVID patients and get on with delivering the NHS Long Term Plan.
The pandemic has shown that while a career in the NHS can also be challenging it is also hugely rewarding, with the ‘Nightingale effect’ fuelling public interest in working in the health service.
Like 2020, our birthday message was amplified by the national Thank You Day, organised by the Together coalition, which took place the day before the NHS’s birthday on Sunday 4 July.
This year also saw the return of The NHS Big Tea on Monday 5 July. This was a chance for communities to come together to thank NHS staff and each other for the huge role they have played over the last year.
Whilst marking all that the NHS has achieved, we also remembered those who lost their lives to COVID-19. Not just in the NHS, although there will be particular resonance for colleagues, but all those who have been taken too soon.
Finally, our birthday was a chance to celebrate the success of the NHS Vaccination programme and again encourage everyone who was eligible to come forward for a jab. We wanted to say thank you to our staff, our army of volunteers, and local communities for working so hard to deliver the extraordinary rollout.