IT is a day of nationwide celebration as the NHS turns 73, and the nation is saying 'thank you' to doctors, nurses, paramedics and other key staff for keeping the country going through the pandemic.

The day dedicated to key workers in Oxfordshire and across the UK is a chance for people to show just how much the tireless professionals in health and care mean to them.

With Covid-19 continuing to spotlight the NHS's work, many staff were given a voice to share their most memorable pandemic experiences – good, bad and ugly – in an online book compiled by Oxford University Hospitals – including the John Radcliffe Hospital in Headington.

Read more: Chief Nurse says today is time to thanks hardworking NHS staff

Ariel Lanada, divisional lead for practice development and education, said: "In 2020, I lost a couple of my close Filipino friends and colleagues at OUH due to Covid-19.

"At that time, around 40 members of our Filipino Community of Oxfordshire were Covid-19 positive and needed to be at home quarantined.

Oxford Mail: Ariel Lanada

Ariel Lanada

"That was the toughest part of my life both as a nurse and as chairman of the Filipino Community of Oxford. While our community was shaken, our faith and resilience were not.

"We needed to help and support each other."

Ms Lanada said a Covid-19 WhatsApp group had been set up to bring members of the community together. They held regular prayer meetings and bought and delivered groceries to those who were in home isolation.

Muslim chaplain at OUH, Imam Hussain, on the other hand, said one constant negative factor throughout the pandemic was misinformation.

He said: "During the first couple of months of lockdown in March 2020, there was misinformation circulating via social media suggesting that there would be forced cremations. This raised a great deal of concern among the local Muslim communities.

"I organised a Zoom meeting with the local Muslim communities and reassured around 100 attendees that this was not the case.

"In the wider community, I have produced a series of videos to help disseminate information relating to the virus to our diverse communities in all the major local languages."

Oxford Mail: OUH Imam Monawar Hussain

Monawar Hussain

Raquel Vicente, staff nurse working at the respiratory high dependency unit, confirmed that 'without a doubt' 2020 was the 'most challenging year personally and professionally' in her nursing career since she graduated in 2017.

She said: "I have seen more people dying last year than in any year before that.

"They were difficult times, the fear when someone’s vital signs kept on dropping and knowing that we were doing everything that we could and yet they were still fading away.

"Personally, I had moved to a new city and to a new house by myself, so I had to deal with all of that as well.

"But, despite being a very dark year, there were some good things worth mentioning. I saw the most brilliant teamwork. I worked with fantastic people and, while we had our sad moments of mourning and complaining how bad things were, there was laughter as well when someone tried to make everyone's day better.

"And we also saw some patients making it out . Some of them stayed for a very long time in ICU, for more than two months, and we had their photos and letters from their relatives hanging around their beds."

To read more stories written by and for NHS staff at Oxford University Hospitals, visit