Humanists UK Chief Exec leads NHS England national memorial to workers who died during pandemic

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson is today (Saturday) leading the national memorial ceremony organised by NHS England to remember NHS workers who died during the pandemic. The memorial is also dedicated to the tireless work of NHS staff in caring for the 400,000 Covid patients who have been hospitalised.

The memorial is taking place in the Blossom Memorial Garden in Stratford, London, which was planted as a living memorial to those who have died, and to pay tribute to key workers. The memorial will include readings, poetry, and personal reflections from Prerana Issar, Chief People Officer, NHS England and other senior NHS officials.

Later in the day, around 70 major landmarks will light up blue to also commemorate the anniversary. They include Wembley arch, Liverpool’s Liver building, Salisbury Cathedral and vaccination centres. Flags bearing the NHS logo will fly above Stonehenge.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:

‘It is a privilege to be asked to lead this private ceremony for NHS England. We can’t capture in one memorial all the diversity and richness of the unique individual stories of the lives that have ended during this last sixteen months. The ceremony is instead an opportunity for remembrance and recognition of all those who have lost their lives in the service of the National Health Service.

‘In our society, for the last seven decades, we have made a promise to each other that when any one of us falls ill, is suffering, or needs care, then all of us will meet that need together. That is what the NHS represents – that pledge, unique in human history, that every one of us living in this country has made to each other every day, all our lives.

‘It is the key workers of the NHS who fulfil that pledge and they are the shining beacons of our own best instincts. We are all inspired by the courage and dedication of all of them – of all convictions and beliefs – as they work tirelessly to comfort and support those in their care.’

NHS Chief People Officer Prerana Issar commented:

‘Each of the colleagues who sadly died while caring for and protecting patients represents an irreplaceable gap in a family and a workplace. While this is a private event for families and some NHS colleagues, I encourage everyone to take a moment on Saturday to reflect and remember.

‘It is no exaggeration to say that health service staff have helped to keep the country going during the pandemic, and while NHS staff have rightly been celebrated for their contribution, we know that the role played by other key workers – people keeping supermarkets open, refuse collectors, child carers and other public services – as well as the resilience of the general public, has helped ensure we can start to move forward.

‘The best way for everyone to say thank you to NHS staff and other key workers is to join the tens of millions of others who have so far had their first and second dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, and book your jabs today.’

NHS England Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May commented:

‘It has been an extremely challenging year for the country and for NHS staff in particular and it is important we reflect on our achievements with pride, and recognise the dedication and commitment of our amazing people who have made huge sacrifices, especially those who sadly lost their lives.

‘It has also been a year of hope with the success of our world-leading vaccination programme now in its final push, and our 73rd birthday is a chance to celebrate that and say a huge thank you to our staff, our army of volunteers, and our local communities for working so hard to deliver the extraordinary rollout.

‘This is a moment not only for the country to record gratitude for the NHS, but I think for all of us in the NHS to say thank you to everybody who has helped us, help you.’