Prime Minister Boris Johnson has led a nationwide clap for key workers on the NHS’s 72nd anniversary, along with the woman who started the weekly Thursday night applause during the first 10 weeks of lockdown.
Mr Johnson and #ClapForCarers founder Annemarie Plas led the commemoration from the doorstep of Number 10, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer applauded from his home in Kentish Town, north London, at 5pm on Sunday.
Ms Plas said she felt “very honoured” to be joining the Prime Minister for the “very special moment”.
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.”
The Prince of Wales paid tribute ahead of the event, which it is hoped will become an annual tradition.
The prince 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.”
Mr Johnson said: “This year has seen the NHS gallantly respond to the greatest challenge it has ever faced and rightly receive unprecedented support.
“Week after week, we saw people take to their doorsteps, line the streets, lean precariously out of rainbow-bedecked windows to clap their hands and bang their saucepans to show their appreciation.
“I am proud to be once again clapping for our heroic NHS staff, alongside Annemarie Plas who launched this inspirational initiative.
“I am also celebrating today with staff from St Thomas’ Hospital who, quite simply, saved my life. As we mark 72 years of the NHS, I want to say how thankful I am of this world leading institution.
“As Prime Minister, I have given the NHS a £34 billion funding increase, the biggest in decades, and made sure it has every penny it needs to cope with coronavirus.
“I’m immensely proud that the organisation built by Beveridge, Bevan, Willink, Godber, and so many others, has grown into the spritely 72-year-old we see today.”
Meanwhile, Sir Keir 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.”
The Prime Minister also 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.
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.