The Duke of Cambridge and the Prime Minister have joined frontline health staff in marking the 73rd anniversary of the NHS on a "really emotional day" at St Paul's Cathedral.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens hailed millions of NHS staff, carers and volunteers who had "served so selflessly", as William, Boris Johnson, opposition party leaders and health service chiefs came together at the historic place of worship in central London.
William appeared without his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, after it was announced she has been self-isolating since Friday following Covid contact.
St Paul’s Cathedral hosted Monday’s event to celebrate the efforts of the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic — especially frontline workers, volunteers and carers.
It was held to mark the milestone of the 73rd birthday of the NHS.
Speaking outside the cathedral, the national medical director of NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis, said: "It was a really emotional day, the 73rd birthday of the NHS.
"Of course today the Queen has honoured the NHS by awarding the George Cross to the service across all nations, and I think that really pays tribute to the work that NHS staff have done for those 73 years since 1948, but particularly of course over the last 18 months, which has been the toughest time."
In a speech to a congregation of political leaders and healthcare workers, Sir Simon thanked "millions of NHS staff, carers and volunteers from across the country who through the pandemic have served so selflessly".
As Kate missed out on the celebrations, Prince William looked smart in a suit with a blue tie and his coronavirus face mask.
Mr Johnson, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Health Secretary Sajid Javid were all attending the special occasion with the royal.
Later in the day, William hosted the NHS Big Tea at Buckingham Palace as a thank you to NHS staff.
Nurses, counsellors and care workers joined William for tea.
The NHS Big Tea is organised by NHS Charities Together. It is a national celebration of the health service, offering the opportunity for communities to come together for a moment of reflection and to thank staff and volunteers for the role they have played throughout the pandemic.
The event is one of thousands of Big Teas taking place on Monday in homes, hospitals, schools and community spaces across the UK.
Alexandra Heys, nurse ward manager in the respiratory high care unit at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The special tea at Buckingham Palace means a lot to NHS staff who have been through so much over the last year, and I feel so honoured to be meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today.
“I know from personal experience that the past year has taken a huge toll on NHS staff who have worked incredibly hard to take care of patients during a challenging time.
“My team at the respiratory high care unit has cared for over 300 very sick Covid patients, all of whom required dedicated around-the-clock care.
“All NHS staff have gone above and beyond, providing additional care in difficult circumstances, including connecting isolated and very sick patients with their families in their most challenging moments.
“We have all been through a lot, so seeing the public get behind the NHS Big Tea on such as massive scale is an immense boost and really makes a difference.”
The prime minister will lead a Downing Street press conference where he will discuss the future of social distancing, face masks and the hospitality sector.
Earlier on Monday, it was announced Kate would not be attending the NHS thanksgiving service because she was self-isolating.
The Duchess of Cambridge has been following government guidance to self-isolate for 10 days since coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
Kate has no symptoms of Covid-19.
Kensington Palace said in a statement: “Last week The Duchess of Cambridge came into contact with someone who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
“Her Royal Highness is not experiencing any symptoms, but is following all relevant government guidelines and is self-isolating at home.”
Last week, Kate delighted tennis fans with her surprise appearance at Wimbledon.
At the tennis event, she also helped out in the kitchens to prepare food for the grounds.