East London’s doctors, nurses and patients prepare to wish the NHS a happy 70th birthday

Romford Town centre gv's. Queen's Hospital

Romford Town centre gv's. Queen's Hospital - Credit: Archant

Tomorrow (Thursday), hospitals, GPs and other healthcare specialists across the country will celebrate 70 years of the National Health Service, one of the UK’s greatest achievements.

Romford Town centre gv's. Queen's Hospital

Romford Town centre gv's. Queen's Hospital - Credit: Archant

It was on July 5, 1948, that Labour health secretary Aneurin Bevan officially launched the NHS - a healthcare service for all, funded solely through taxation, that was free at the point of use.

His over-riding principle was that “no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means,” and despite strong opposition from both his own party and the Conservatives.

Seven decades on and this week the entire country is coming together to celebrate the continued success of such a lauded institution, with events planned throughout east London.

The Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT), which runs Queen’s Hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford, and King George Hospital in Barley Lane, Goodmayes, is holding a double celebration this week marking not only the NHS’s significant milestone but also the 25th birthday of King George Hospital.

To celebrate, TV personality and former Redbridge schoolgirl Stacey Solomon will be judging a special birthday cake bake off at the hospital today (Wednesday), which will see staff from across the hospital channelling their inner Paul Hollywood in a bid to be crowned star baker.

Then, on Thursday the jubilation will make its way to Havering, where Queen’s Hospital will host a celebratory breakfast that will see staff, patients and BHRUT leadership come together to mark the big day.

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Matthew Hopkins, BHRUT chief executive, said: “This is such an important occasion, not only for the NHS, but for the whole country and I’m so glad that so much is going on to recognise the 70th birthday of the NHS.

“It’s a great time for us to show appreciation for our own people, so we’re hosting a range of events this week, including inviting lots of our staff and local MPs to a special celebration breakfast, we’ll have entertainment throughout the day in the atrium at Queen’s Hospital, and a special picnic for our team at King George Hospital, all taking place on Thursday.

“We also have another special birthday to celebrate at our Trust this year – the 25th anniversary of King George Hospital. So we’re holding a special Big Birthday Bake Off at the hospital following our annual general meeting today (Wednesday), with TV star Stacey Solomon acting as head judge and choosing the star baker from our talented colleagues.”

Barts Health Trust, which runs Newham University Hospital in Glen Road, Newham, Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone and The Royal London and St Bartholomew’s hospitals in central London, is also marking the big day in a number of ways.

This year, the trust is holding its summer fun day at Whipps Cross on Saturday (July 7) and will be themed “The NHS: Past, Present and Future” and will serve as a birthday party of sorts for the beloved institution, running from 11.30am-3pm.

The event will showcase a dynamic installation that explores memories of the East End from patients and staff, with visitors welcome to add their own memories and photos to the interactive display.

But the future of the NHS is currently something of a political hot potato across the country, with thousands marching through London this weekend in support of the institution and protesting against a perceived threat of privatisation.

Results of a survey revealed this week that more than half of people aged 15-24 believed it was inevitable that they would have to pay for healthcare by the end of their lifetimes.

In May prime minister Theresa May announced NHS England will receive an extra £20 billion a year by 2023 as a “birthday present”.

It means an average rise of 3.4pc a year on the £114 billion budget but it falls short of the 3.7pc increases the service has previously received.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has said it will put more money into the NHS than the Conservatives but has not specified how much.

An NHS England spokesman said: “The history of the NHS is one of evolution, of responding to the changing needs of the nation.

“Today’s NHS is rising to the challenge of a growing and ageing population, which means pressures on the service are greater than they have ever been.

“The population of England alone has soared by around 17 million people since the NHS was launched all those years ago, so far more patients now receive life-saving, life-changing care than ever before – and public satisfaction is higher than ten or twenty years ago.

“As the NHS turns 70, we will be talking about plans to address these pressures and make sure the NHS is fit for the future.

“This means, as a priority, making it easier to access your local GP, focusing hard on improving cancer diagnosis and swift treatment, and making sure that mental health services and urgent and emergency care are available whenever they’re needed.”