An NHS chief has paid tribute to the “constant” compassion of the service’s 1.4 million staff, as the institution celebrates its 75th anniversary.
But Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, acknowledged the “enormous challenges” faced by workers, including the record demand for services and the backlog of care.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director for the health service in England, said that staff were meeting these new challenges “head on”.
Ms Pritchard told the PA news agency that the 75th anniversary of the service is an opportunity to “reflect” on the hard work of staff while looking forward to the future of the NHS.
She promised the service will “continue to embrace tech” and highlighted exciting new developments such as the trial for a simple blood test which could detect many different cancers before symptoms even appear.
Sir Stephen told PA that the NHS would embrace the latest technology and advances in treatments to meet the challenges it faces.
This includes a trial which will start next year in NHS hospitals to see whether using artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to help speed up diagnostic times for breast cancer, he said.
Me Pritchard said: “The history of the NHS is one of change and innovation, so while striving to meet the needs of today’s patients, we are also making decisions to ensure we adapt to meet the needs of the next generation.
“From creating and expanding new services such as our gambling clinics to treating over 100,000 people at home in virtual wards last year, the NHS is always adapting and innovating.
“While many things have changed over the last 75 years, the skill and compassion of NHS staff who care for our patients and their families has always remained constant.
“They face enormous challenges: recovering services, addressing Covid backlogs that inevitably built up over the pandemic and dealing with record demand for services.”
She added: “This milestone 75th anniversary is an opportunity for us to reflect on their hard work and our achievements but to look to the future of the health service too.
“The NHS was the first healthcare system in the world to systematically offer whole-genome sequencing as part of routine care for patients with certain rare diseases and cancer, including all childhood cancers.
“We are the first in the world to pilot a blood test that could revolutionise cancer care for the future by detecting the disease before symptoms appear.
“We are expanding the NHS app so that people can access healthcare from the touch of a button.
“So, from pharmacy health checks to health advice on the app, we will continue to embrace tech and future-proof our services for the next 75 years and for future generations.”
Sir Stephen added: “As it marks its 75th birthday the health service is facing record demand across emergency care, general practice and mental health, but as it has always done the NHS is using the latest technology and advancements in treatments to meet these challenges head on.
“From treating 100,000 people a year on virtual wards so people can receive hospital level care at home to working with researchers on how AI can help shorten diagnostic times for breast cancer screening, with testing due to take place in NHS hospitals next year.
“All of this would not be possible without our incredible 1.4 million staff who have steered the NHS through the pandemic and, as our NHS Long Term Workforce Plan published last week sets out, I hope thousands more will join our workforce over the coming years so we can continue to deliver world-leading care for our patients.”
Celebrations to mark the anniversary are taking place across the health sector, with famous faces also paying tribute to the service.
Sir Andy Murray, Britain’s most successful tennis player, shared his thanks for the “indispensable” NHS and spoke about how it has supported his family.
Hollywood actor Tom Hardy will be reading Zog And The Flying Doctors on CBeebies Bedtime Stories on Wednesday evening while artist Charlie Mackesy has created a special NHS75 illustration.
The Prince and Princess of Wales surprised NHS staff by dropping in for a tea party at a London hospital while Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh will be joined by 1,500 health service staff, politicians and other supporters of the NHS at a special service at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday.
The first baby born in the health service, Nye Thomas, will also attend.
Speaking before the ceremony, she told PA the service is a “national treasure” and she feels it is her duty to inform others about its work.
Published: by Radio NewsHub