Defence Wishes NHS Happy Birthday As Coronavirus Fight Continues

Armed Forces personnel have joined the nation in thanking the NHS on its 72nd anniversary.

The Armed Forces community is paying tribute to the National Health Service on its 72nd birthday.

NHS workers have faced perhaps their toughest year since the service was formed in 1948, as frontline health workers continue to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The military has supported NHS efforts, forming the COVID Support Force to help with emergency evacuations, personal protective equipment delivery and establishing mobile testing units.

Armed Forces personnel also helped to construct eight NHS Nightingale hospitals within weeks, which are now being held on standby.

Alongside a familiar nationwide 'clap for carers', a Spitfire with the message “Thank U NHS” painted on its underside will also fly over several NHS hospitals in the east of the country, finishing over Cambridge.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace thanked the health service on behalf of the military community.

"The Armed Forces are proud to have been working side by side with the NHS since its formation and we have the utmost respect for all those willing to devote their lives to protecting our nation," he said.

"The NHS provides our Armed Forces with the best clinical care in the world and in return many personnel work with the NHS.

"That relationship has been more visible than normal while supporting the NHS in its fight against the coronavirus and I have no doubt our relationship will continue to go from strength to strength in years ahead."

Voices from across the forces have paid tribute to the NHS online.

Personnel from the Princess Mary’s RAF Nursing Service (PMRAFNS), nicknamed the “Flying Nightingales”, have been working closely with NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Group Captain Fionnuala Bradley, current matron-in-chief of the PMRAFNS, said: "On behalf of the PMRAFNS, I would like to extend birthday wishes to all the NHS staff, especially those we have worked alongside during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The joint working we have seen over the last four months has been outstanding. The NHS and the PMRAFNS have forged stronger links.

"What we have seen, is a groundswell of appreciation for our profession and stronger links between our organisations.”

Currently round 350 of the 500 PMRAFNS personnel work in NHS hospitals across the UK as part of their professional development. 

The core role of the RAF nursing Service is to provide specialist airborne evacuation and 'care in the air' for wounded or sick Armed Forces personnel on operations around the world. 

Working alongside NHS colleagues during 2020, they have provided support on wards and in Critical Care Units, also forming Critical Care Teams to support the London Ambulance Service.

Former Army Reservist Petty Officer Naval Nurse Alice Mullen, Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, says the "experience of nursing in austere conditions" has helped personnel boost civilian efforts throughout the pandemic.

"I currently work in the ICU at Derriford Hospital caring for patients during the COVID 19 pandemic," she said.

"Royal Navy nurses work alongside their colleagues from both the Army, RAF and NHS, to provide patient care to patients with the virus."

An NHS cadet programme has been launched to coincide with anniversary events, aiming to offer a career in health to up to 10,000 teenagers aged 14 to 18.

The nation will come together at 17:00 BST to clap for the NHS on its 72nd birthday.

Cover image: RAF Nurses wish NHS Happy Birthday (Picture: RAF).