A nurse invited to an NHS 75th anniversary event, where royals made a surprise appearance, has said it was a “huge honour” to be involved in the celebrations for the health service.
Louie Horne, registered nurse and Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) clinical research fellow based at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, was among the special guests at NHS Charities Together’s Big Tea Party on Wednesday, 5 July – the 75th birthday of the NHS.
“The NHS is something my country, the Philippines, doesn’t have, and having worked in a country where we don’t have it, it’s a huge honour to celebrate it”
Ms Horne was joined by NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard, Ellie Orton, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, and several dozen health service workers from across the country, and from disciplines ranging from medical doctors to ward nurses to occupational therapists and ambulance workers.
The event, held at the wellbeing garden of Guy’s at St Thomas’ Hospital, also featured a surprise appearance from William and Kate, Prince and Princess of Wales. Ms Horne said the royals’ arrival was a happy shock.
“We were just singing happy birthday to the NHS when the Prince and Princess came in with a cake, and our jaws dropped,” Ms Horne told Nursing Times.
“It was amazing, the event made us [feel] very, very special. Having gone through the pandemic, we need to celebrate the things that bring us joy.
“That was one of the days where we could do that; I’ve never attended anything like it – speaking of the Princess of Wales, you see on the telly that she’s great with people, but she really was so engaging, generous and really listened to what we had to say.”
NHS attendees ranged from current practitioners to long-retired health staff, which NHS Charities Together said was designed to celebrate every generation of the health service.
It also welcomed Aneira Thomas, the first baby born to the NHS, and Great British Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc, who acted as host for the event.
Ms Horne, who has worked in the NHS for 22 years, continued: “For the royals to stay, for a good hour, just listening to us talk about how we felt about the pandemic, and the importance of the NHS, it was great.
“The 75th birthday, to me, is a big thing. Back in Ipswich we always celebrate it with little cakes, but the 75th, it makes me honoured to be working for the NHS.
“It’s something my country, the Philippines, doesn’t have, and having worked in a country where we don’t have it, it’s a huge honour to celebrate it.”
She further said: “My work is with equity, and it was great to represent the Asian community at the event, and the incredible contributions they’ve made to the NHS workforce.
“To give us a platform, as international nurses, is a great thing.”
Ms Orton, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said of the event: “We want to say a huge thank you to our royal patrons, and everyone who’s helped celebrate the 75th anniversary of our beloved NHS this year.”
Elsewhere that day, a special service at Westminster Abbey was put on to celebrate the heath service’s milestone. The prime minister, leader of the opposition and celebrated nurses were among those attending.
And, in the morning, MPs took part in a parkrun led by England chief nursing officer Dame Ruth May around St James’s Park in honour of the 75th birthday of the health service.