Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today marks the anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service. On July the 5th, 1948, just four months before I was born, Trafford General Hospital opened its doors, providing care to all according to their need – not their ability to pay.
After more than seven decades, that founding principle, though now familiar, is still a profoundly moving statement of our values – and it has never been more relevant than it is now.
The current pandemic means that the N.H.S. – and the entire country – has been through the most testing time in the service’s history.
Our remarkably selfless nurses, doctors, paramedics and countless other staff have made costly sacrifices to provide treatment for more than a hundred thousand patients with Coronavirus and thousands more who needed other care.
And, in tribute to them, we have come together as a nation to thank them for their skill, professionalism and dedication.
Of course, our whole society has risen to this extraordinary challenge: from the farmers, fruit and vegetable pickers, delivery drivers and shop workers who provided our food; to the energy workers who kept the lights on, the transport staff and the public servants and business people who continued to provide vital services. Every new difficulty has been met with a new solution.
Countless volunteers have come forward to help those in greatest need and, of course, all have had their part to play by heeding the official advice to help stop the spread of this cruel virus.
This renewal of our community spirit has been a silver lining during this dark time. Our communities have been put to a severe test and, true to our best traditions, they have overcome it with determination and imagination, with good sense and with good humour.
During these past months, the phrase ‘to shield’ has taken on an emphasis it did not have before. But while the meaning may be new, the principle of protection for those in need is timeless. In Psalm 18, we read these words of thanks for deliverance from danger:
You have also given me the shield of your salvation: and your right hand has held me up, and your gentleness has made me great.
To all who have given so much during this present danger, I just want to say that it is you who have been our shield; it is your hands that have held us up; it is your gentleness that has made us great.
Despite all that has been endured, there is deep cause for gratitude, and a true reason for pride. In the way we care for all members of our society, our greatness truly is in gentleness. So, thank you all for what you have done – more than I can possibly say.