People across the UK have shown their appreciation for the NHS and its efforts during the coronavirus pandemic by clapping in celebration of its 72nd birthday.
Boris Johnson joined in the applause outside 10 Downing Street with Annemarie Plas, the founder of the weekly Thursday night clap for carers, which ended last month. Keir Starmer and Nicola Sturgeon stood outside their homes, like many across the country.
The occasion was also marked in other ways, including with a flypast of a Spitfire emblazoned with the message “Thank U NHS” in Cambridge. At St George’s hospital in south London, staff spelled out the number 72 on the hospital’s helipad.
The celebration echoed the clap for carers, in which millions of people applauded outside their homes every Thursday evening for 10 weeks in appreciation of frontline doctors, nurses and care home staff. But with the easing of lockdown, unlike for the Thursday night claps, people were able to join in from pubs, shops and restaurants too.
Earlier, Plas told BBC Breakfast: “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.”
Plas, a Dutch national living in south London, said she felt “very honoured” to be joining the prime minister outside No 10 for the “very special moment”.
Johnson met NHS workers in the Downing Street garden on Sunday afternoon. Public buildings including the Royal Albert Hall, Blackpool Tower and the Shard were lit up in blue in tribute to the health service.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge showed their support by making a visit to a hospital in Norfolk. William and Kate shared afternoon tea with doctors, nurses and other staff at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in King’s Lynn, which will celebrate its own 40th birthday later this month.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, tweeted: “Fantastic to come together on the NHS’s 72nd birthday to once again clap for all our carers. Thank you all for everything you do.”
Earlier he was noncommittal when asked about unions’ demand that the government go beyond applause for staff and show its appreciation by beginning talks on a pay rise to take effect before the end of the year.
Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show whether he wanted to see the pay of NHS staff going up in real terms this year, Hancock said: “Of course I want to see people properly rewarded. Absolutely.”