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It’s the 72nd birthday of the NHS this weekend - and people across Suffolk and north east Essex are invited to join in the national ‘thank you’ celebrations – aimed at thanking not only NHS and other key workers but all those who have volunteered or helped keep services and community networks working well.

On Saturday evening (July 4) everyone is asked to put a light in their window as a mark of remembrance to those who have died from coronavirus.

On Sunday (July 5) at 5 p.m. people of all ages are encouraged to stop what they are doing and join with others (following appropriate social distancing) in their street or neighbourhood for a mass applause event, and afterwards raise a glass with their neighbours. If you’re shielding or prefer to remain indoors you could stand by a window or you could even join an online group for a virtual applause session.

But please - help to keep our hospitals safe by clapping at home - don’t arrive at local hospitals to clap.

A number of local buildings are set to be ‘lit blue’ as part of the weekend celebrations including the Apex in Bury St Edmunds, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Clacton and Colchester town halls, Colchester Castle, Colchester, Ipswich and Clacton hospitals and The Royal Hospital School.

This Sunday at 10.00 a.m. will also see the premiere performance by the London Symphony Chorus of a newly commissioned piece by Howard Goodall called "Never To Forget" which pays tribute to the first 122 health and care workers who died from coronavirus, including Colchester GP, Dr Karamat Mirza. You can read more HERE and watch on YouTube on the day.

Dr Ed Garratt, Chief Executive, NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk, NHS West Suffolk and NHS North East Essex clinical commissioning groups, said: “I am immensely proud of how our local NHS staff have responded to the challenges of the last few months, and I offer my thanks to everyone.

“This event is also a splendid opportunity to recognise every individual who has played a role in supporting people’s physical and mental wellbeing during this time. There are so many people who have done so much for their communities and are hugely deserving of a round of applause.”

Stephen Dunn, Chief Executive at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It is 72 years since the NHS began, and now more than ever as a nation the public has supported the NHS to navigate through the greatest challenge it has ever faced. It is important for us all to reflect and remember the lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the effect this has had on all of us, including our NHS and key workers.

“Although we will continue to deal with the many challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic for the foreseeable future, we want to take this moment to thank the community who have supported our staff, not just by clapping on Thursdays during lockdown to boost our morale, but by adhering to social distancing, hand hygiene, and other lockdown rules to flatten the curve in Suffolk.

“These sacrifices have meant we have coped with the first spike, but we urge the public to continue their vigilance and continue to follow the rules in place to ensure we continue to control COVID-19 moving forward.”

Cllr Dan Land, Chairman of Tendring District Council – which is lighting up Clacton Town Hall blue to mark the birthday – said: “The NHS is a fantastic institution; it has been throughout its 72-year history but this has come into sharp relief in recent months.

“Lighting up our Town Hall is just a small gesture of our big thanks for the NHS, even more poignant coming in the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.”

Jonathan Warren, Chief Executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), said: “The past few months have reminded us that many people across the country, including those in East Anglia, view the NHS with great fondness and hold a special place for it in their hearts. We would therefore like to use these 72ndbirthday celebrations to thank the public for their fantastic ongoing support and the sacrifices they have made to protect the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the same time, I would also like to pay tribute to our dedicated and hard-working staff, who go the extra mile each and every day to provide the best possible care for our service users and their families.”

Dr Ruth Bushaway, Medical Director for Suffolk GP Federation, said: “This year has been incredibly challenging for the NHS. Our staff, along with all our colleagues across the health and social care sector, have shown extraordinary dedication throughout this pandemic. GPs, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals have been sustained by the support of the public’s weekly applause.

“As we mark the NHS’s 72nd birthday, we want to say another huge thank you.

“We are incredibly proud of our staff and colleagues for the way in which they delivered patient care throughout the pandemic to the communities of Suffolk. Happy Birthday NHS."

Leader of the West Suffolk Council, Cllr John Griffiths, said: “Our NHS colleagues are such an important part of our community and we are extremely grateful for all they have done, and are continuing to do, to help save lives. On this 72nd birthday of the NHS, we are lighting The Apex blue to thank them and mark the bravery and dedication of all in the NHS. It also highlights the work of other carers and key workers and those community volunteers, many of whom have worked with us, to help vulnerable people during this crisis, as well as remembering all those who have died from coronavirus. 

"West Suffolk Council is part of the West Suffolk Alliance which works closely with the NHS and other partners to help improve people’s health and wellbeing, such as through the successful social prescribing initiative. The best way that any of us can honour and thank our friends in the NHS is of course, by being sensible and careful and sticking to the social distancing measures to try to keep the spread of Covid19 down.”

A spokesperson for the Suffolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: ‘’Over the recent months the wide NHS umbrella and other key workers have demonstrated amazing resilience and ability to adapt to provide the best possible patient care and services. Our community pharmacies are proud to play their part. We are immensely grateful to all of our wider partners who have helped so much during the pandemic and every individual volunteer who has helped us take care of shielded patients. Thank you!’’

Frank Sims, CEO at Anglian Community Enterprise (ACE), said: “It has always been a privilege to be in the NHS and work alongside the most dedicated, caring and inspiring people.  We are uniquely allowed into peoples’ lives, often when they are at their most vulnerable, and I am reminded daily of the massive, positive impact we have on everyone in our communities.  The public also recognise what I see and their support over the years, as well as the last few months, has been outstanding.

"Thank you NHS for giving me the opportunity to help people and thank you, the public, for supporting us.’’

Paul Cross, Regional Partnership Director (East) at NHS Property Services, said: “As an estates provider supporting our NHS partners, we are particularly keen to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the NHS staff that use our facilities and provide such a vital service to patients, especially from Clacton Hospital.”