This weekend marks 72 years since the NHS came into being on 5 July 1948 and Gloucestershire is marking the occasion in style.

It will be a moment for everyone to reflect on the outstanding achievements of the local NHS and its partners and the ability of health service staff to rise to the challenge, innovate and come together for patients in the face of adversity.

During more than seven decades, the NHS has made tremendous advances in care, medicine and technology, from organ transplants, to new treatments for cancer, vaccine development and innovation in services and staff skills that have resulted in shorter hospital stays or care closer to home.

However, 2020 has been the most challenging year yet for the NHS, and staff working in GP surgeries, community services, hospitals and emergency services have gone above and beyond the call of duty to respond to the COVID pandemic in remarkable ways.

Gloucestershire is marking this special birthday occasion by illuminating several NHS buildings and will be broadcasting staff and public tributes across social media on Sunday 5 July.

At 5pm on Sunday, members of the public will be encouraged to stop what they’re doing and join with others (following social distancing rules) in their streets and neighbourhoods to applaud NHS staff, volunteers and other key workers who have helped keep services and community networks going.

At the same time (5pm) at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, NHS staff and representatives from the emergency services will join in the ‘clap of claps’ to say the biggest thank you yet to colleagues and everyone who has helped them through the pandemic so far.

Mary Hutton, Accountable Officer at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said:

“Talking to local people it is clear how fundamental the NHS is to everybody and what a huge part it has played in all of our lives.

It’s held in great affection and it is a great privilege for those of us who work within the service, knowing the responsibility that we have to local people and the difference we can make to their lives.

Health and care professionals have done so much to support patients, their families and each other during the pandemic, but many other teams have also responded in extraordinary ways to the challenges we have faced; delivering ‘virtual’ care to patients via video or telephone, taking on new roles, adapting to service changes and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for long periods of time.”

Deborah Lee, Chief Executive at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:

“As the NHS marks 72 years, I have never been more proud of my colleagues. There is such a spirit and passion for care across the NHS workforce in Gloucestershire and this shone through brighter than ever in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This dedication and professionalism was further highlighted as many joined the frontline to support their colleagues.

Staff have adapted their working practices, even their places of work in some cases and have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that we continue to provide the best possible care to our patients during this unprecedented time.

On Sunday evening, we would encourage everyone to make this the loudest clap ever to say thank you to everyone who has played their part in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Paul Roberts, Chief Executive at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust said:

“This has been the most challenging year in the NHS’s history and this is an opportunity for us to say thank you to everyone who has pulled together to keep us going; from nurses, doctors, therapists, pharmacists and cleaners to the wonderful carers who continue to support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and those who did their best to stay at home and save lives.

We want to take this moment to reflect on everything our communities have recently endured, to stand in solidarity to mourn loss of life and to thank our amazing staff and volunteers who continue to act selflessly to care for local people and keep us safe.”