Belfast Telegraph

NHS at 70: Northern Ireland celebrates birthday of national institution

Gary Lightbody
Gary Lightbody
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody was among the many thousands - if not millions - to sing the praises of the NHS on its 70th birthday.

Events were held across the UK on Thursday to mark the moment the then health minister Aneurin Bevan received the keys of Trafford's Park Hospital (Now Trafford General Hospital) near Manchester from the local council to mark the beginning of the National Health Service on July 5, 1948.

Prime Minister Theresa May said it was a "very special birthday for a very special institution".

And celebrations were held in Northern Ireland and many major hospitals and treatment centres.

At the South West Acute Hospital in Fermanagh patients got a surprise when singer Nathan Carter called in for a visit to help with the celebrations.

And thousands took to Twitter to share memories of how the service had helped them over the years.

Have you got a memory to share of how the NHS helped you? Send your story plus a picture and all your details to

Snow Patrol's Gary Lighbody described how he was laughing with his dad in the park just this week.

"That wouldn’t of happened without you," he tweeted.

"You saved my dad’s life."

"Hard to put into words what that means to me so I’ll just say thank you .... from the bottom of my heart thank you."

Snow Patrol's latest album includes the song Soon, about Lighbody's 80-year-old father's battle with dementia.

Alliance leader Naomi Long how her own life had "quite literally" been saved since a cancer diagnosis five years ago.

"We all owe the NHS a huge debt of gratitude.

"We can repay it by fighting to maintain the service and supporting staff who make it work," she said.

"When a superhero is born, they work for the NHS," said Stephen Nolan.

"What you do is incredible and we literally couldn’t live without you."

James Brokenshire - who was forced to stand down as Northern Ireland Secretary to have lung cancer surgery, said seeing it "up close and personal brings home how incredible it is and just how special the people are who work within it."

In a day of celebration a special service was held at Westminster Abbey - along with thousands of others right across the country - while scores of buildings across the UK will be lit in the traditional blue of the NHS."

In Northern Ireland the man in charge of the local health service, civil servant Richard Pengelly, described the anniversary as a "proud day" for all those that work in the health service.

He said he remained confident of the future of the NHS but that it was in need of reform including providing more care in people's homes and "reform" of hospitals and the services they provide.

He said workers should take heart from the fact the NHS has faced challenges from the start when it was established "amid the rubble of a world war".

"Today's challenges, however difficult, are not beyond us," he said. "Certainly not with the wonderful staff, past and present, on which the service is built.

"So let's look to the future positively, knowing that through transformation we can put strong foundations in place for decades to come."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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