As politicians and health leaders took the opportunity to pay tribute to the service’s achievements and speculate about its future, Mr Sunak praised the ‘enduring moral purpose’ underpinning the NHS, which he said, ‘gives every single person in our country the security that comes from knowing that if you're sick, you will be cared for’.
Keir Starmer, Labour leader echoed the Prime Minister’s tributes to the people who make up the NHS, and said: ‘on the NHS’s 75th anniversary I want to say thank you to all the staff. I know how hard you work, how dedicated you are, and how much you sacrifice.’
But Starmer also highlighted that the NHS is a ‘service, not a shrine’ and empathsised with staff claiming he knows that ‘you don’t want more empty claps’ and that he ‘feels your frustration with the current state of the service.’
Pledging to ‘get the NHS off life support’, Mr Starmer called for the decisive changes needed to ensure that the NHS can survive and make it to its 80th birthday.
But he struck a more personal note in acknowledging the central role of nursing in the NHS workforce, reminding readers that his mum was a ‘proud nurse’ and that for her, the NHS was both her ‘livelihood and her lifeline’.
Pat Cullen, chief executive of the RCN, described nurses as the ‘beating heart of the NHS’ and echoed calls for change, starting with the working conditions of nurses. ‘I think the NHS has survived because of the dedication and the compassion and the commitment of nursing staff,’ she said.
But, Cullen described the ‘extreme conditions’ faced by a ‘depleted’ workforce.
She said: ‘The NHS deserves much more. It deserves to be nurtured and looked after and treated as the incredible institution that it is and was set up to be.’
Chief executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard assure the public that the NHS would evolve and there would be many more birthdays to come. ‘Since day one, the NHS has never stood still. It has continually innovated and adapted to meet the changing needs of patients – and continues to do so, today, she said, before addressing the service’s 1.2 million employees. ‘To everyone who's made such a difference to many millions of lives over the last 75 years — thank you.’