Windsor Castle, the Houses of Parliament and the Wembley Arch are among a number of iconic landmarks turning blue this evening in honour of the UK’s healthcare heroes.
As the NHS celebrates its 72nd birthday this weekend, the #LightItBlue initiative will pay tribute to those who have risked their own lives to look after patients caught up in the coronavirus crisis. The anniversary will see people encouraged to observe a minute’s silence at 8pm tonight and to light a candle in remembrance of people who have lost their lives to Covid-19.
Although the weekly Clap for Carers initiative has finished, one last round of applause for frontline workers is set for tomorrow at 5pm. In London, The Shard will feature a special 15-minute moving display on Saturday from 9pm.
But landmarks across the country including Liverpool Town Hall, NEC Birmingham and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge will all be lit up blue at the same time. The illuminations will pay tribute not only to NHS staff, but to those that have helped the organisation during its most challenging period since its 1948 inception.
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Downing Street will also be lit up blue and Boris Johnson will meet health service workers in the Number 10 garden tomorrow afternoon. Team leader of the #MakeitBlue Collective Gary White said: ‘When the events and entertainment industry initially found itself without work due to COVID-19, we wanted to harness our collective skills to thank both the NHS and key workers during this pandemic.
We’re delighted to have been asked to support NHS staff by turning the UK skyline blue in what promises to be a great expression of national unity.’
Chief people officer for NHS England Prerana Issar added: ‘The support the NHS has received from the public during this pandemic has been truly overwhelming, and the Light It Blue campaign is a great way to celebrate the 1.5 million NHS staff and volunteers who have worked tirelessly during the past few months to help patients and their families.’
During a virtual rally marking 72 years of the health service, Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said its staff are in need of a pay boost.
He said: ‘The pride and the thanks that we have for the NHS which is always there, is reinforced this year by everything that all the staff in the NHS have done in relation to the Covid crisis.
Of course, we’re not through that, and it will be our NHS heroes and the bravery of what they do which will get us through whatever comes next.
‘That’s why it’s very important that we don’t just say thanks, but recognise in a meaningful way what the NHS has done.
‘And that’s why Labour supports those calling on the Government today to make an immediate commitment to talks on a pay rise for NHS workers.
‘We support that. We know that valuing our NHS workforce, through fair pay and conditions, is crucial to tackling the many vacancies across the NHS.
‘And we urge the Government to agree this deal as soon as possible, in recognition of the bravery and sacrifice shown by our healthcare heroes during this crisis.’
The comments come after unions representing more than 1.3 million nurses, cleaners, physiotherapists, healthcare assistants, dietitians, radiographers, porters, midwives, paramedics and other NHS employees have written to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister calling for pay talks to start soon.
Health workers are nearing the end of a three-year pay deal, and unions believe the Government should provide funding for an early pay rise for all NHS staff, including domestics, catering workers, security guards and other support staff working for private contractors.
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