THE nation came together to celebrate the 72nd birthday of the NHS and thank the medics for their selfless courage and dedication.

People stood on their doorsteps to clap for the NHS at 5pm.

The initiative follows the success of the weekly Clap for Carers at the height of the coronavirus pandemic and it is hoped the applause will become an annual tradition.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson invited NHS workers in the Number 10 garden while public buildings including the Royal Albert Hall, Blackpool Tower and the Shard have been lit up blue in tribute to the health service.

The Prince of Wales and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also paid tribute to the NHS.

Prince Charles said: “The current pandemic means the NHS - 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 100,000 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.”

Meanwhile, Sir Keir said the health service had a personal resonance for him as his late mother was a nurse and later relied on the NHS as she became ill.

He said: “Many, many times she got gravely ill and it was the NHS that she turned to, and I remember as a boy, a teenager, being in high dependency units, in intensive care units, with my mum, watching nurses and other support staff keep my mum alive.

“They did that on more than one occasion - it’s etched in my memory. For them, it was just the day job. So, it’s personal for me and I’m grateful to the NHS and my mum was grateful, she loved the NHS through the many decades that she absolutely depended on them.”

Staff at East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust also took part in the applause.

Chief executive officer Dorothy Hosein said: “This year as we celebrate the NHS’s 72nd birthday, we hope that people will take this moment to pause and reflect on how the whole of the NHS has been there for you during the COVID-19 crisis.

“For EEAST it is also a time to reflect and to thank our colleagues in the NHS, the other caring professions, workers in essential services, and also the public for their incredible support during what has been a challenging time.”