Sunday 5 July marks the 72nd anniversary of the NHS. The health service has seen many changes over the years and faced many challenges but the coronavirus pandemic has presented its greatest challenge yet and demanded an unprecedented response. Staff from across all sectors, including social care, have stepped up to the mark to provide the extraordinary levels of care required.
This year, I particularly want to acknowledge the Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) colleagues, who have continued to work on the front line, despite facing an even greater challenge due the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic. As I said at the NHS70 events, we are fortunate in Doncaster to have such a rich mix of different cultures and I believe this makes us a better place for it. Black lives matter and I personally pledge to lead and support ongoing development and inclusivity within the NHS.
Over the last few months, the NHS has made rapid changes to deal with the virus on a scale not seen before. Nationally, the Nightingale Hospitals were built to provide additional resource; thankfully to date, the one built for Yorkshire and Humber hasn’t been used, thanks to the efforts of the public to keep to the guidance and staff at local hospitals to respond to the virus at pace.
Here in Doncaster, we have changed how we provide services in order to keep patients and staff safe. We now carry out more on-line and telephone consultations at local practices and we have established a dedicated facility, so even if you have symptoms of the virus, we can still provide the help, support, treatment and care you may need for other health issues and conditions. Working with partner organisations such as Doncaster Council, local businesses and voluntary organisations has never been so important and we are fortunate that we have a good history of working together to support the health, care and welfare needs of Doncaster residents. Together, we have responded to the challenge of the coronavirus.
I also want to recognise the efforts of everyone in Doncaster for adhering to the lockdown measures by staying at home, social distancing and self-isolating when necessary. There are many examples of communities supporting each other by doing shopping for elderly neighbours, collecting prescriptions and generally looking out for each other. I know it has been tough at times and many people have not found it easy. But by doing this, the NHS has not been overwhelmed and you have helped to slow down the spread of the virus.
Everyone has played a vital role and I would like to say thank you for your commitment, resilience and flexibility.
The NHS’ birthday allows us to reflect on the challenges we’ve faced and the opportunities we have embraced as individuals, families and as communities. So many people have achieved great things; volunteering, helping neighbours, fundraising, returning to NHS careers, improving their health by becoming more active and talking more about mental health. We can all continue to support the NHS by making the most of these positive changes to Live well, Work well and Care well. Be proud of what you are doing and the steps you are taking. And share your stories to inspire and motivate others!
The anniversary also gives us the opportunity to remember those who have sadly passed away and remember them for the colleagues, friends and family they were. The human toll of the coronavirus has been high and so on Saturday 4th July at 8pm, we ask people to take a moment to remember all those we have lost by putting a light in your window or on your doorstep. National landmarks will also be lit up blue to help us remember.
In Doncaster, a new memorial garden is planned to remember all those in the town who have passed away as a result of Coronavirus. The Rainbow Garden will be located near the entrance to Doncaster Royal Infirmary and will provide a place to remember as well as somewhere to sit and relax.
On Sunday 5 July, we encourage you all to join together at 5pm to applaud and give thanks to everyone who has helped the NHS throughout the pandemic – follow the build-up on Twitter by following #thankyoutogether.
Friends, families and neighbours have helped each other and the renewed sense of community spirit has been refreshing to see. So why not enjoy a socially distant cup of tea after the 5pm applause with neighbours and spend some time reflecting and celebrating the bonds that have kept us all going these last few months?
Finally, as the lockdown eases, we ask that you continue to stay alert, wash your hands regularly, maintain social distance and wear face masks to medical appointments and on public transport. The latest government guidelines are available on our website.
We’ve come so far, done so much and helped reduce the spread of the virus. Altogether, let’s do it for Doncaster as we celebrate 72 years of the NHS.