LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles paid tribute to Britain’s state-run National Health Service on its 72nd birthday on Sunday, expressing pride in how it has coped with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both have recovered after contracting the coronavirus, with Johnson having said the NHS saved his life, “no question”, after he was admitted to intensive care with severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Johnson was expected to join in a “Clap for Carers” at 5 p.m. (1600 GMT), a reprise of what had been a weekly tribute to doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers during the height of lockdown.
“This year, we’ve seen not only the greatest challenge the NHS has ever faced, but also an unprecedented outpouring of affection and support for that institution,” Johnson said in a video tribute.
The NHS was founded on July 5, 1948 by Aneurin Bevan, who was health minister in the Labour government at the time. He said the taxpayer-funded service should be free at the point of delivery, with treatment based on clinical needs and not a person’s ability to pay.
Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth’s son and heir to the throne, said this founding principle was a “profoundly moving statement of our values” which was never more relevant than now.
He paid tribute to the sacrifices made by the staff of the NHS to provide treatment to more than 100,000 patients who have been treated in hospital for COVID-19. He has said he was lucky to get away with only mild symptoms from his diagnosis, and was not admitted to hospital.
“To all who have given so much during this present danger, I just want to say that it is you who have been our shield. It is your hands that have held us up,” he said in a video message.
“Despite all that has been endured, there is deep cause for gratitude, and a true reason for pride.”