Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says today's NHS Birthday is an opportunity to say thank you

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the NHS. This date is particularly poignant this year as we thank all those NHS staff and other key workers who have kept us safe, and we remember those who have lost their lives, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to not only my colleagues at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) and all our colleagues at the University Hospital, who have gone the extra mile to care for our patients and for each other during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also everyone else who has pulled together and supported us.

The NHS Birthday is a moment to pause and reflect on the remarkable support which we in the NHS have received since the start of the pandemic and for which we are incredibly grateful.

Oxford Mail: Chief Nurse, Sam Foster

Our volunteers have played a key role and so has our Oxford Hospitals Charity but so many other many people’s efforts have supported us through this extremely challenging period.

And so we would like to say thank you to everyone from the teachers in our schools who have continued to educate and take care of the children of our staff to those military colleagues who were drafted in to help us during the peak of the second wave of the pandemic earlier this year.

We do not take this support for granted and we have been deeply moved by the kindness and generosity of our partners and our community, and would like to express our deepest gratitude to you all.

I am very honoured to have been invited to attend a special service of thanksgiving – socially distanced of course – which is being held today to mark at St Paul's Cathedral in London to recognise the work of NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic on the occasion of the NHS Birthday.

As NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens says: "Twelve months ago, we all hoped the worst of coronavirus was behind us, but instead amazing NHS staff had to contend with a winter wave of infections even greater than the first.

"They rose to the challenge, not just providing care to coronavirus and other patients but, supported by volunteers and countless others, have also delivered the NHS COVID-19 vaccine programme with unrivalled speed and precision."

I will be proud to represent my colleagues at OUH – and the wider nursing profession – at today’s service of thanksgiving which is also due to be attended by members of the University of Oxford team who developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

It was my privilege to administer the first Oxford COVID vaccination back in January this year at our Churchill Hospital vaccination centre – which really brought home how unique and vital our city and our county has been in responding to the pandemic.

Oxford Mail: John Radcliffe Hospital, with inset of NHS worker in PPE treating Covid patient. Picture: PA

Oxford has been at the heart of global research into COVID-19 – not only the development of the vaccine but also groundbreaking research into new treatments – because of the close working relationship between clinicians at OUH and the world-class University of Oxford academics and researchers who work alongside them.

The Covid-19 pandemic may not be over but the vaccine and the new treatments which are now available to us have brought new hope – and that is definitely worth giving thanks for on our NHS Birthday.