Darren Miller didn’t expect many people to come out to clap for the NHS and frontline workers last week. Still, the 35-year-old, who works for the Scottish ambulance service, put on his jacket and stepped out to stand in solidarity with his colleagues.
He was taken aback by the roar of applause and cheers that he was met with in East Kilbride last week. On Thursday evening, he was overwhelmed to see his neighbours had come again.
For a second week in a row, people up and down the country stood at their front doors, outside their windows, on balconies in high-rises, to clap, cheer and bang pots and pans for those working on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is still in self-isolation, stepped out of No 10 to clap, as monuments across Britain, from London’s Shard to the Manchester Central centre, turned blue.
The unlikely movement, which started with a hashtag, has become a poignant focal point for people across the country, from those on the frontline to the people self-isolating at home, to come together and show their appreciation.
“It was [a] feeling unlike anything else. When you step outside, you can hear a noise akin to the passion that you would find at a football match,” Miller said.
When he stepped outside and walked down the street, many neighbours had shouted their gratitude to him. People were just as appreciative at work, Miller added; one told him if that it wasn’t for the NHS, he would not be alive today.
The sentiment was shared by Jennifer Cassidy, a lecturer at Oxford University, who has been in hospital twice after experiencing severe coronavirus-like symptoms. The 32-year-old said she was “too delirious” to be able to go outside and clap last week, but enjoyed being able to show her appreciation this time. She described the care she received as exemplary.
“I get that healthcare all around the world is a political issue. It’s politicised no matter what country you’re in, but I was always taken back by the critique of the NHS because in Ireland it cost around €50 to even enter a doctor’s office. I’ve always had such good care here. I always thought it was brilliant,” she said.
In the London borough of Newham, residents came out again to show their gratitude.
Among them was Vivian Archer, manager and driving force behind the beloved Newham Bookshop, who turned 72 on Thursday. As well as celebrating her birthday, she stepped out to cheer on key workers. “It’s just brilliant, because it shows how much we care. The NHS is one of our proudest achievements ever.”
The epidemic has cast a long shadow over the borough that was once home to the Olympic stadium; where the first new NHS Nightingale hospital was built, and where the mayor announced that temporary mortuary facilities would soon be erected.
Archer pointed out that the NHS was created the year she was born. “It’s important it remains something that everyone has access to. We must protect it.”
It was not just members of the public who chose to pay tribute to the health service on Thursday. The NHS England Twitter account shared videos of famous faces holding up signs with the hashtags #ThankYouNHS and #OurNHSPeople.
The clips feature thank-yous to medical staff from the chief nursing officer of England, Ruth May, alongside more than 70 stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Kylie Minogue, David Beckham, Daniel Craig, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Naomie Harris and Sir Elton John.
Our @CNOEngland Ruth May is joined by some familiar faces to say a very big #ThankYouNHS to all of the incredible staff, carers and volunteers across health and care. 💙 #COVID19 #ThankYouThursday #OurNHSPeople pic.twitter.com/X96HuTWoos— NHS England and NHS Improvement (@NHSEngland) April 2, 2020