National celebrations at Westminster Abbey and York Minster on 5 July will pay tribute to NHS staff and patients to mark the health service’s 70th birthday.
The services will be attended by around 3,000 NHS staff from across the country and representatives of charities, councils, and other key partners who work with the NHS.
“Our health service is the pride of the nation, the greatest gift in the Western World”
Aileen Coomber, 81, a former mental health nurse at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, will carry in the manifest at the Westminster service.
She said: “I remember life before the NHS with my mum not always being able to afford to take us to see the doctor when we were children. It was such a different time and I am so grateful for the change the NHS has brought to so many people.
“I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to join the NHS as a nursing scholar at the age of 15, three days after the introduction of the NHS. For me, our health service is the pride of the nation, the greatest gift in the Western World,” she said.
The Westminster Abbey service will also include Freya Lewis, a survivor of the Manchester terror attack, and Dr Martin Griffiths, a trauma surgeon who led a team treating victims of the London Bridge attack.
“I’ve been really inspired by their work and hope to one day train to be a nurse myself”
Dr Griffiths said: “I am privileged to provide world-renowned care alongside incredible colleagues; from cradling people at their most vulnerable to sharing the joy of whole families for those who we are delighted to help.
“The NHS is a grand lady who has been watching over our nation for 70 years, and we do our utmost to ensure her strong future,” he added.
Other guests at the abbey include Olive Belfield, who was in the first group of NHS recruits in 1948, and Lobke Marsden, who paints radiotherapy masks for children undergoing cancer treatment.
In addition, 15-year-old Eve Senior, another survivor of the attack in Manchester who wants to become a nurse, will address the congregation in York.
Ms Senior said: “It’s fantastic to be here celebrating the amazing work of everyone who works for the NHS.
“They have helped my recovery so much and I feel so grateful for all the services they offer. I’ve been really inspired by their work and hope to one day train to be a nurse myself so I can help others,” she added.
“We want to say a massive thank you to the dedication and skill of the many millions of people”
Maisie Saunders, a former midwife, health visitor and primary care trust manager, who is now part of the NHS Retirement Fellowship and volunteers with children, will also speak at the minster.
Among others, performances will be given by the NHS Greenwich and Lewisham choir who will singing their latest single, With a Little Help from My Friends.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “This is a landmark year for the National Health Service and we want to say a massive thank you to the dedication and skill of the many millions of people who have worked for the NHS, past and present.”
Wider celebrations on 5 July to mark the NHS’s big birthday will include thousands of 7Tea parties to raise money for NHS charities.
Dozens of landmark buildings will also light up blue including York Minster, the Blackpool Tower, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the London Eye and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The BT Tower will also run a special birthday message from on its iconic infoband.