NHS anniversary: how the UK is celebrating the national health service this weekend

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Hollie Richardson
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NHS anniversary.

How can we celebrate 72 years of the NHS during the pandemic? There are a few events happening around the UK to mark the occasion, and you can join in with them.

With so-called “Super Saturday” marking the relaxation of lockdown rules this weekend, people are starting to book hair appointments, reserve a table at the local pub and buy cinema tickets

It’s perhaps easy to feel like things are going back to “normal”. But we mustn’t forget that we are very much still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and the NHS and its workers continue to need our full support. 

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Of course, the best way to do this is by following the official social distancing guidelines in order to minimise the spread of coronavirus

But we can also show our appreciation, and pay our respects to the devastating number of people who have died with Covid-19, by taking the time to celebrate the NHS’s 72th anniversary this weekend. 

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On Friday 3 July, a vigil was held in London, where over 50 members of NHS carried lanterns – each one representing the thousands of lives that have been lost during the pandemic. People are being asked to put a light in their window as a mark of respect, too. 

On Saturday, a moment’s applause will be observed before the kick-off of the Premier League and Championship football matches in England. Major public buildings – Houses of Parliament, Blackpool Tower, the SEC Armadillo, the Shard and the Wembley Arch – will be illuminated with blue light. Downing Street will also be lit up, with a candle placed on the doorstep of No 10. And, at 8pm, the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London will light a candle of remembrance.

NHS anniversary: a vigil was held on Friday to show respect for the lives lost so far in the pandemic.

On Sunday, a flypast by a World War Two Spitfire fighter plane is due to take place over hospitals in the east of England. A nationwide applause, inspired by the Clap for Carers initiative, will take place at 5pm. And a special programme will be broadcast on BBC One to mark the occasion.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has said he hopes the public will use the anniversary as an opportunity to “say a heartfelt thank you” to hospital staff.

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“This year has been the most challenging in NHS history,” Stevens said, “with staff displaying extraordinary dedication, skill and compassion to care for the 100,000 patients with Covid-19 who needed specialist hospital treatment and many others besides.

“During this testing time our nurses, doctors, physios, pharmacists and countless more colleagues were sustained by the support of the public, not least through the weekly applause for key workers.

“No health service, not even the NHS, could have coped alone with this coronavirus pandemic.”

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…