BORIS Johnson has joined millions of Brits to clap and cheer our NHS heroes today on the health service’s 72nd birthday.
The PM stood beaming on the steps of No10 as he paid tribute to frontline workers and volunteers to commemorate their work fighting the coronavirus crisis.
While a Spitfire with the message “Thank U NHS” painted on its underside took to the sky before flying over several NHS hospitals in the east of the country, finishing over Cambridge.
Second World War veteran and NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore joined the applause from his home in a video he shared on Twitter.
The 100-year-old, who raised millions for the NHS, said: “Happy 72nd birthday NHS. Thank you for all that you do for us.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also clapped on her doorstep, saying in a tweet: “Happy 72nd Birthday, NHS. Thank you for everything.”
Paramedic William Young was one of around 25 staff and patients who marked the event outside Bridlington Hospital in Yorkshire.
“I’ve worked for Yorkshire Ambulance Service for over 12 years now and I’ve never felt prouder than I have this year,” the 38-year-old told the PA news agency.
“The NHS has really stepped up to the Covid-19 pandemic and some of my colleagues have made some tremendous sacrifices.
“I think today’s clap has reminded us all that while we are still fighting Covid, we have so much to be grateful for in our NHS.”
Workers gathered at scores of other hospitals including at Leeds and Coventry.
And the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.
Wills, 38, told nurses: “Everyone appreciated what you do. The NHS is a fantastic organisation.”
The Prince of Wales also paid tribute ahead of the event, which it is hoped will become an annual tradition.
Charles said: “The current pandemic means that the NHS – and the entire country – has been through the most testing time in the service’s history.
“Our remarkably selfless nurses, doctors, paramedics and countless other staff have made costly sacrifices to provide treatment for more than a hundred thousand patients with coronavirus and thousands more who needed other care.
“And, in tribute to them, we have come together as a nation to thank them for their skill, professionalism and dedication.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the health service had a personal resonance for him as his late mother was a nurse and later relied on the NHS as she became ill.
He said: “Many, many times she got gravely ill and it was the NHS that she turned to, and I remember as a boy, a teenager, being in high dependency units, in intensive care units, with my mum, watching nurses and other support staff keep my mum alive.
“They did that on more than one occasion – it’s etched in my memory. For them, it was just the day job. They were doing that every day.
“So, it’s very personal for me and I’m very grateful to the NHS and my mum was very grateful, she loved the NHS through the many decades that she absolutely depended on them.”
Medics across the country took part in the celebration, with some holding NHS rainbow flags as they stood outside hospitals and by ambulances.
The Prime Minister met NHS workers in the Number 10 garden on Sunday afternoon, while public buildings including the Royal Albert Hall, Blackpool Tower and the Shard have been lit up blue in tribute to the health service.
Mr Johnson was joined by nurse Luis Pitarma and ward sister Jenny McGee who cared for him in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in South London and “helped save my life”.
He said of the NHS: “In these past few months, indeed the past 72 years, you have represented the very best of this country.
“Our gratitude to you will be eternal.”
On Saturday, people observed a minute’s silence and lit candles in remembrance of those who have died during the coronavirus pandemic.
The nationwide clap was organised following a letter from the Together coalition, in which influential figures including NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby voiced their support for making July 5 an official day of commemoration.
Members of the public also paused to mark the occasion holding homemade banners and wearing t-shirts that paid tribute to Britain’s NHS heroes.
It comes after the hugely successful #ClapforCarers iniative which lasted for 10 weeks following lockdown with millions across the country taking part.
More than 100,000 hospital inpatients have been treated for Covid-19 in the UK, including Mr Johnson, along with many more who suffered with the virus at home.
Members of the armed forces constructed eight NHS Nightingale hospitals within weeks, which are all now being held on standby.
The Government’s latest figures showed that 44,131 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Thursday, and a candlelit vigil was also held on Saturday night to remember them.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said hospital workers have only been able to pull the country through the pandemic thanks to a “national mobilisation” of all key workers, from care assistants and supermarket shelf-stackers to transport workers.
He said: “I think for NHS there will be a sense of relief, having coming through this huge first spike of coronavirus patients, but also people have been working incredibly hard.
“So there’s a need to take a moment to reflect and recharge the batteries while at the same time doing all the other brilliant things that the health service does.
“This is a huge national effort and the NHS is hugely grateful for all the support it has received from all of the rest of the country.”
Sir Simon warned the NHS could have another “enormous job on our hands” if a second virus spike sweeps the UK at the same time as seasonal flu, and urged people to continue observing social distancing.
He said: “Going into autumn and winter, we are going to have to continue to be vigilant about the possible resurgence of coronavirus.
“Until such time as there is a vaccine, we know that it will be lurking across the world.”
Annemarie Plas, who founded the #ClapforCarers initiative, described the NHS anniversary clap as a “beautiful moment”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: “We have had this first part of the crisis, we don’t know what lies ahead, so if we can have this one moment where we say thank you to each other and recharge our batteries for what may be a heavier time that lies ahead, then I think that is a beautiful moment.”
Ms Plas said she felt “very honoured” to be joining the Prime Minister outside No10 for the tribute.
She added: “I came here as a new mum in a new country and they (the NHS) really went beyond to track me down, to show me around, and really helped me, and that was really touching because we don’t have anything like that in the Netherlands.
“So I feel very happy to be in touch with the NHS this way.”