St Paul’s Cathedral is to play host to a special service of “commemoration and thanksgiving” for the people who have played a role in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
NHS England said staff will be placed “at the heart” of the socially distanced service in central London on July 5, which coincides with the 73rd anniversary of the foundation of the health service.
Doctors, scientists, vaccine champions and health bosses are all due to be present.
Among those attending will be Dr Ashley Price, a member of the team who treated the very first patients with the virus in the country, and May Parsons, who administered the first vaccine outside of a trial.
Rheumatology consultant Dr Perpetual Uke, from Birmingham, who gave birth to twins while in a coma with Covid-19, will have a role in the service, as will Kathrine Dawson, who also gave birth and was in a coma with the virus and whose baby Ruby was born with it.
NHS England said people from “all faiths and none” will attend the service which will “recognise the dedication and commitment of all those who have played their part in combating coronavirus across the NHS, care sector and beyond”.
It will be led by Dr David Ison, dean of St Paul’s, and the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally.
Imam Yunus Dudhwala, head of chaplaincy at Barts Health NHS Trust, and representatives of humanist groups will also attend.
They will be joined by Dame Sarah Gilbert, who holds the Said Professorship of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute and Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine and who co-designed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Her Oxford University colleague Professor Sir Peter Horby, who helped run the NHS trial that found the effective dexamethasone treatment for Covid-19, will also attend.
Other guests include actor Lydia West and those who helped promote vaccine uptake, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis, England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May, and deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.
Sir Simon said: “Twelve months ago, we all hoped the worst of coronavirus was behind us, but instead amazing NHS staff had to contend with a winter wave of infections even greater than the first.
“They rose to the challenge, not just providing care to coronavirus and other patients but, supported by volunteers and countless others, have also delivered the NHS Covid vaccine programme with unrivalled speed and precision.
He said the service was an opportunity for the country to “reflect on the toll the virus has taken” and “give thanks” to those who “played their full part” in the pandemic.
Dame Sarah said: “In the last year we have felt the loss of connectivity to those we love.
“We have been forced to distance ourselves physically, unable to reach out to family and friends with whom hugs, a hand reached out in care, an arm around a shoulder, would in other times convey love, closeness, compassion and care.
“The NHS is a demonstration of community and of solidarity in society, between generations, between rich and poor – and between people of diverse cultures and ethnic heritage.
“Through the generations, healthcare professionals from more than 200 nationalities have contributed to its workforce.
“This solidarity – of generations, of rich and poor and of people from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds – is needed not just for a well-functioning society but to enable all human beings to flourish.”