Stories from staff and patients who attended the national service of thanksgiving

On the NHS’s 73rd birthday, St Paul’s Cathedral hosted a special service of commemoration to “recognise the dedication and commitment of all those who have played their part in combating coronavirus”.

Read stories from staff across the NHS, care sector and beyond, who attended the service, alongside patients, who thanked staff for the incredible care they received.


Dr Patrick Lillie, an infectious diseases consultant and member of the team who treated the UK’s first COVID-19 patients at Hull University Teaching Hospital

Dr Lillie was one of the first consultants to treat the UK’s first hospitalised COVID-19 patients, from China, who fell ill in York.

He was at a leaving dinner for a colleague when he received the call that the patients were on their way. He is pleased with how his trust handled the patients and that it all went smoothly.

Dr Lillie also worked as a principal researcher for the Oxford vaccine trial.

Dr Ashley Price, part of the team who treated the UK’s first COVID-19 patients at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary

Dr Price was part of the team who treated the two Chinese patients when they were transferred from Hull University Teaching Hospital to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

While Dr Price says the pandemic has been difficult, he has never worked harder and at the beginning everything had to change so fast that it was quite frightening, there have been a lot of positives to come out of this too.

He feels that the NHS has been able to find and use new treatments much faster, and he and his colleagues have found new ways of working and connected with others through the NHS and other organisations to improve care.

Kathrine Dawson, from Blackpool, who gave birth to baby Ruby with COVID-19, before being put in a coma 

Kathrine spoke at St Paul’s Cathedral about her gratitude to NHS staff.

She caught COVID-19 while pregnant and had to have baby Ruby delivered to relieve pressure on her lungs, before being placed in an induced coma. Ruby was one of the first babies to be born with COVID-19.

While ill, staff used an iPad to livestream images to Kathrine of Ruby in her cot.

Shaykh Ahmad Faruq Siddiqi, Chaplain at Royal London Hospital

During the peak of the pandemic Shaykh Faruq facilitated virtual farewells and prayers for dying patients and their families.

He has been the go-between for families and their loved ones in hospital, providing prayer and comfort and preparing families for the inevitable

Shaykh Faruq said “I see many patients alone and families desperate to be with their loved ones. I’ve provided advice and support on end-of-life care issues as well as funeral arrangements”.


Roy Warnes, Devon, a volunteer at South Brent COVID-19 testing station 

Over the last year, former Royal Marine Roy has spent his time volunteering at the COVID-19 testing station at South Brent. He has been working at the site since the first day of testing began and has been instrumental in helping out at four more testing sites locally.

While volunteering, he works hard to ensure people have all the information they need, and he is known for his ability to keep people feeling calm and reassured when coming in for their tests.

Diane Caunt, a domestic services member of staff at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust

For 18 months Diane and a colleague worked in the Emergency Department and Intensive Therapy Unit at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, wearing full personal protective equipment. She didn’t hesitate when asked to take on this role and has said she would do it again.

Diane’s memories of people being on ventilators will stay with her.

She has been commended for working to cover the shifts of others and only taking time off when she herself contracted COVID-19.


Shamraze Zeb runs two GP practices in Walsall and organised vaccination sessions in temples, mosques and gurdwaras

Shamraze set up the local primary care network vaccination programme in Walsall, which has vaccinated approximately 30,000 people, organising pop-up vaccination sessions in local temples, mosques and gurdwaras as well as special sessions for the homeless.

He also put together an educational programme to target hard to reach groups where vaccine hesitancy was high. He ensured there were lots of GPs on hand at the pop-up sessions to talk to people about their concerns and as a result improved uptake rates.

Dr Perpetual Uke, a doctor from Birmingham who gave birth to twins while in a coma with COVID-19 

Perpetual always wanted to be a doctor. At the end of March last year, at 20 weeks pregnant with twins, she was diagnosed with COVID-19. By the 28 March, she was put into a coma which lasted until 1 May.

She gave birth while in a coma and later on her doctors phoned her husband to prepare him for the fact that she may not survive. She woke from her coma and staff helped her see her twins in intensive care. She is so grateful to her colleagues and all those who did so much during her illness.

Dr Roopak Khara, a psychiatrist at West London NHS Trust

Dr Khara was part of the team that set up the first ward in the UK to care for patients with acute mental illness who test positive for COVID-19 at Hammersmith and Fulham Mental Health Unit.

She says when she puts herself in her patients’ shoes, she can see why the ward is so important.

Coronavirus is hard enough for anyone, but even more challenging for patients with a mental health or behavioural condition.