75 years of NHS honoured on pandemic anniversary

On Friday 10 March, the eve of the third anniversary of the pandemic, NHS Charities Together hosted an event, including a minute’s silence, to honour 75 years of service and sacrifice in the health and care workforce.

NHS Charities Together is a national charity and is a member of the national steering group which is helping to organise the NHS’s 75th anniversary celebrations.

Staff, volunteers and senior representatives from across the NHS were in attendance, including Chief Nursing Officer for England Dame Ruth May DBE, and the event featured a specially written dedication, thanking NHS staff for 75 years of care, from Heidi Thomas OBE – the writer and creator of BBC One’s Call the Midwife.

Held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, the live-broadcast event was joined by NHS colleagues across the UK and featured personal testimonials from staff including Max Oosman, a community mental health nurse practitioner who just celebrated his 50th year of service.

Max said: “I am now entering my 51st year of service in the NHS, and I’m the proudest nurse on earth. I began my career aged 19, after coming to England from Mauritius, and I’ve still got more to give. People ask me how I have stayed working for 51 years, but nursing is who I am. This is what drives me. Along the way I have learnt the impact we can all have on others. Our compassion can and does change people’s lives, so we must inspire each other to keep going.”

In addition to staff testimonials there were musical performances from Lewisham and Greenwich NHS choir and operatic tenor Dr Alex Aldren, and the laying of blue heart wreaths.

Dame Ruth May DBE, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “The last three years have been extremely challenging, and I am so grateful and proud of our health and social care workforce and the vital contribution they have all made during this time. While I have always known how remarkable our health and care professionals are, the pandemic shone an even brighter light on their extraordinary work. It is so important that we get together to reflect on this and the lasting impact the pandemic has had on so many.

“This year, as we also mark the 75th anniversary of the NHS, I’m grateful to have the chance to say thank you and acknowledge the contribution of every incredible colleague who has helped make the NHS what it is.”

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, said: “From the inception of the NHS to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, the incredible NHS workforce has given so much of themselves to care for us and make our health service what it is. Today, we honour and thank them for every sacrifice they have made and continue to make.

“While today is a chance to celebrate everything that is so brilliant about our NHS, we must also acknowledge some of the challenges staff continue to face. As the national charity caring for the NHS, NHS Charities Together is working hard to support all NHS staff who need it, and we’re grateful for everyone who helps make that support possible.”

You can watch the event via www.nhscharitiestogether.co.uk/withallourhearts