Sunday 5 July marks the 72nd anniversary of the NHS, which was launched in 1948 by then-minister for health Aneurin Bevan.
Two days prior to the 72nd birthday of the national health service, a vigil took place as part of a procession in central London to honour people who have lost their lives during the Covid-19 crisis, including NHS staff.
Organised by the People’s Assembly and health campaigns Together, Keep Our NHS Public and We Own It, the evening procession started at St Thomas’ Hospital before travelling across Westminster Bridge towards Downing Street.
Around 50 NHS staff and campaigners took part, each carrying a lantern that represented 1,000 people who have died after contracting the virus. It was recently reported that the UK’s coronavirus death toll had risen to 44,131.
Once the procession reached Downing Street, doctors and health workers read out the names of NHS workers who have died as a 20-minute candlelit vigil was observed.
Ramona McCartney, national organiser of the People’s Assembly, said it was a “very sombre and emotional” occasion.
“We are coming up to the 72nd anniversary for the NHS and there will be celebrations, but we think it’s really important to throw attention to the ways in which the government has mishandled the situation and lots of people have lost their lives unfortunately,” Ms McCartney said.
“To see the NHS staff reading out the names, it was very moving. It was a real moment of reflection and bearing light to an absolute tragedy that could have been avoided.”
According to figures released last month, more than 300 NHS and social care workers have died during the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking with regards to the figure at prime minister’s questions in late May, the prime minister said: “I know the thoughts of the whole House are with their families and friends.”
Last week, the Office for National Statistics said that no excess deaths had been registered in England and Wales for over a week, the first time this had happened since March.
On 3 July, it was reported that a fifth of care home residents became infected with Covid-19 once the virus was present.