Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, is among those who has thanked nurses and other health service staff for the care they provide over the busy festive period.
Today, he thanked the hundreds of thousands of staff who are caring for patients over Christmas and praised their hard work during the health service’s 70th birthday year.
“It’s only right that we take a moment on behalf of the whole country to say an enormous ‘thank you’”
Ms Stevens said the milestone had showed that, as the country has hotly debated its future via Brexit, people were united in their support and appreciation of the National Health Service.
Across the UK, more than 400,000 NHS staff will be giving up time with loved ones to care for patients and their families on Christmas Day alone.
An estimated 82,000 nurses and 55,000 nursing assistants will be working in hospitals tomorrow while 12,000 midwives are expected to welcome around 1,400 babies.
Another 12,000 frontline ambulance staff, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians and call handlers, will be on duty on Christmas Day.
In addition, around 145,000 care workers and home carers will be giving up their Christmas Day, whilst an army of caterers will serve around 400,000 Christmas dinners.
In a video message, Mr Stevens said: “As 2018 draws to a close, it’s been a big year for the National Health Service.
“We’ve been celebrating our 70th birthday, and in a year when there’s been wide national debate about the future of our country, there’s also been wide agreement about the continuing vital importance of the National Health Service,” he said.
“Yes, there’s been recognition of the huge pressures on the NHS and our staff. But also of the amazing advances we’re continuing to see in areas like cancer treatment and mental health,” he said.
Ms Stevens’ message to staff was filmed at St Thomas’ hospital where his first child was born on Christmas Day. Last year, just over 6,500 babies were born in the maternity unit with 14 babies born on Christmas day alone.
He said: “I’m here at the hospital where my own son was born on Christmas Day 15 years ago, and it’s a reminder that right throughout the year – whether it’s midwives or catering assistants or junior doctors or therapists or nurses or the 1.3m people who look after us right across the country – they’re here for us, when we need them.
“So as we approach the end of the year, it’s only right that we take a moment on behalf of the whole country to say an enormous ‘thank you’,” said Mr Stevens.
“We understand the pressures you’re under,” he said. “We greatly appreciate the compassion, and the care, that you show.
“And we know that without you, the NHS would not be the brilliant service that the whole nation wants to continue to see,” he added.
“We must thank the thousands of NHS staff who will be working extremely hard around the clock over the festive period”
Director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, Miriam Deakin, said: “As many people head into a Christmas break, we must thank the thousands of NHS staff who will be working extremely hard around the clock over the festive period to provide quality care to those that need it.”