About the NHS Birthday

It’s been the most challenging year in the history of the NHS and staff from across the health service have pulled out the stops like never before to deliver extraordinary care. From the domestic workers on the COVID-19 wards who have worked tirelessly to keep hospitals clean, to medical students heading the call for 111 call handlers and IT professionals working around the clock to keep services running, the NHS has mobilised to tackle this once in a lifetime global pandemic.

Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England and NHS Improvement

On 5 July 2020, it will be 72 years since the NHS and social care system was established.

2020 has been the most challenging year in NHS history. This year, the birthday is an opportunity to recognise, reflect and remember. To recognise the skills, commitment, achievements, compassion and diversity of all our 1.9 million people, across more than 350 different professions.

Over the last few months staff have worked around the clock to tackle coronavirus – caring for the 100,000 patients with COVID-19 who needed specialist hospital treatment and treating countless others besides, redesigning services and creating backup Nightingale hospitals.

None of this would have been possible without the help and support of countless individuals and organisations around the country.

Everyone across the NHS is hugely grateful to the thousands of former doctors, nurses and other health service staff who came out of retirement to battle coronavirus, the fellow key workers – from bus drivers and refuse collectors to social care staff and teachers – who kept the country running  and, of course, all those who stopped the spread of the virus by following the expert advice and staying home to save lives.

Everyone has had a part to play and, in the most difficult days, frontline workers were sustained by the support of the public.

On Sunday 5 July we invite everyone to come together at 5pm to come together and applaud the commitment, courage and sacrifice shown by so many. #ThankYouTogether.

Saturday 4 July, the day before the birthday, will be a moment of remembrance and reflection for all the lives of those we have lost during the pandemic. This chance for the nation to come together and pay our respects is being led by the Together Coalition. We are asking people to place a light in their window, and buildings and landmarks will be lit up as part of this collective act of remembrance.

Lockdown has been a tremendously challenging time for everyone, but at the same time we have seen countless examples of people doing their best and achieving amazing things – fundraising, volunteering, returning to NHS careers, helping out neighbours, being more active, and a greater willingness to talk about and address mental health issues.

We are asking people to carry on supporting the NHS and social care by continuing or embracing one or more of these positive changes to Live well, Work well and Care well. Be proud of what you are doing and share your story, or commitment, to inspire and motivate others.

The birth of the NHS

On 5 July 1948, the NHS was launched by Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health, at Park Hospital in Manchester (known today as Trafford General Hospital).

For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella to provide care for free.

Since then, the NHS has transformed the health and wellbeing of the nation. The NHS has delivered huge medical advances and improvements to public health, meaning we can all expect to live longer, healthier lives.

Want to find out more? The Nuffield Trust produced an interactive timeline which charts the evolution of the NHS from its inception in the post-war years through to today.

The NHS’s birthday closely follows national Windrush Day which celebrates the anniversary of the Empire Windrush arriving at Tilbury Docks, London on 22 June 1948. Many of the passengers took up roles in the NHS and were instrumental in building our health service, which launched two weeks later. Read more in these blogs: Windrush and the NHS – an entwined history and Still on the journey: Windrush 2020.