NHS celebrates 75th anniversary

Wednesday, 5th July 2023

NHS celebrates 75th anniversary

Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh attended a service celebrating the 75th anniversary of the National Health Service at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday 5th July 2023.

The service was led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, who said in his Bidding:

'We gather in thanksgiving for both the grace of God and the grace and glory that is the NHS. We celebrate seventy-five years of public witness to the common good. Born of the radical conviction that we must care for one another, the National Health Service sets before us all the better angels of our nature. Here is high principle translated into best practice. Here is the steady dedication of those who, for us, face pain and fear, know life and death, tragedy and near miracle, and return another day to do that again. Here is a courage tested to its limits. Here is a virtuoso capacity for innovation; a dedicated and lively expertise. Here is love made manifest.'

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh

The George Cross

At the start of the service, the George Cross awarded to the NHS in 2022 was processed to the High Altar by May Parsons, the nurse who administered the world's first Covid-19 vaccine. She was accompanied by Kyle Dean-Curtis, St John Ambulance cadet of the year, and Enid Richmond, who worked for the NHS when it was founded in 1948.

The George Cross, the highest civilian award for gallantry, was presented to the NHS by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of its service to the country since its launch, including the exceptional efforts of its staff and volunteers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The George Cross in a protective case

‘Hope for the future’

The Address was given by Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England, who said of the health service:

'We come together today not to celebrate an idea, but to celebrate all those who have breathed life into it, who have made it mean something real to tens of millions of people over three quarters of a century, and who continue to give us hope for the future.'

Listen to the Address

The sermon was preached by the Dean. He spoke about the history, significance and importance of the National Health Service.

Listen to the sermon

The testimonies

Dame Elizabeth Anionwu OM, academic, author and the UK's first sickle cell nurse, read a testimony reflecting on the huge advances in healthcare she has witnessed over the course of her career.

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive, NHS Charities Together, spoke of the enduring public support for the NHS, demonstrated in tireless fundraising for NHS charities.

Dr Martin English, a retired consultant paediatric oncologist, and Dr Michael Griksaitis, a consultant in paediatric intensive care, described how they jointly led a team of NHS staff who last year brought Ukrainian children with cancer to the UK from Poland.

The readings and prayers

The Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer KC MP, Leader of His Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition, read Revelations 21: 1-4, 22: 1-2; and the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Prime Minister, read Matthew 25: 31-40.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Mark Birch, Minor Canon and Precentor. Words of blessing were said by faith representatives Dr Amina Al-Yassin, representing the Muslim community; Mr Kirit Mistry, representing the Hindu community; and Dr Manvir Kaur, representing the Sikh community.

The service was sung by the Westminster Abbey Special Service Choir, directed by Andrew Nethsingha, Organist and Master of Choristers. The organ was played by Matthew Jorysz, Assistant Organist, and before the service by Dewi Rees, Organ Scholar.

Portraits celebrate 75 years of care

The winning entries from a photography competition held to celebrate the NHS were on display at the Abbey for the service. From hundreds of submissions, five winners were chosen from the categories Our People, Our Innovations, Our Environment, Our Care and Our Partners. They included a portrait of a volunteer giving a haircut to a patient, and a dramatic shot of an ambulance navigating a snow storm.

Order of Service

A Service to Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the National Health Service: Order of Service (PDF, 636KB)