NHS anniversary: Landmarks to be lit up in weekend of celebration

A girl dressed as a nurse holds up a drawing of a rainbow with the words "thank you" written on itImage copyright

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Drawings of rainbows became a symbol of hope and gratitude towards the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic

Dozens of landmarks across the country will be lit up blue later to mark 72 years since the founding of the NHS.

Ahead of the health service’s anniversary on Sunday, people are being encouraged to take part in a weekend of celebration and remembrance.

People will be asked to put a light in their window to remember those who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday evening, households across the UK will take to their doorsteps for a nationwide clap for NHS workers.

A moment’s applause will also be observed before the kick-off of this weekend’s Premier League and Championship football matches in England.

On Saturday, major public buildings will be illuminated with blue light, including the Houses of Parliament, Blackpool Tower, the SEC Armadillo, the Shard and the Wembley Arch.

Downing Street will also be lit up, with a candle placed on the doorstep of No 10.

At 20:00 BST, the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London will light a candle of remembrance of the lives which have been lost during the pandemic.

On Sunday, a flypast by a World War Two Spitfire fighter plane is due to take place over hospitals in the east of England and a nationwide applause, inspired by the Clap for Carers initiative, will take place at 17:00 BST.

A special programme will be broadcast on BBC One to mark the occasion.

The Clap for Carers initiative saw households across the country showing appreciation for healthcare workers for 10 Thursday evenings in a row during the height of the pandemic.

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Dutch-born Londoner Annemarie Plas, who started the Clap for Carers campaign, said she hoped Sunday’s applause would mark the start of a yearly tradition to thank the health service.

Meanwhile, a new NHS cadet programme being launched to coincide with the anniversary hopes to encourage thousands of teenagers into careers in healthcare.

Teenagers aged between 14 and 18 will be able to train in first aid, develop leadership skills, and find volunteer opportunities within the health service.

The £6m programme, funded equally by the NHS and St John Ambulance, aims to offer a route into employment for up to 10,000 young people by 2023.

The scheme’s organisers are looking for people who may not have previously considered working in the NHS, including those not in employment, education or training.

The NHS’s chief nurse for England, Ruth May, said the scheme would give people “a genuine opportunity to get a taste of what it’s like to work in the best health service in the world”.

It is being piloted in Colchester, Hull and London and will be rolled out to Liverpool, Bradford, Hertfordshire and the Wirral in the coming months.