NHS marks 75th anniversary amid underfunding and staff shortages

King Charles in a hospital.
King Charles in a hospital. Copyright Jane Barlow/AP
By Euronews with AFP
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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose parents were both immigrant health workers, spoke about his new workforce plan during the event.


Deeply loved but blighted by record levels of staff vacancies, Britain's National Health Service (NHS) on Wednesday marked 75 years since it was founded as the Western world's first universal, free healthcare system.

In a secular age, the NHS is the closest thing Britain has to a national religion: devoutly cherished, with levels of public support higher than the royal family or any other British institution.

It was founded three years after World War II by a pioneering Labour government on the principle that everyone should access top-quality healthcare funded by general taxation, free at the point of care.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose parents were an NHS doctor and a pharmacist, paid tribute last week to the service as he outlined a 15-year plan aimed at recruiting hundreds of thousands of new healthcare staff.

"For every minute of every day of every one of those 75 years, the NHS has been kept going by the millions of people who've worked for it. To them, on behalf of a grateful nation, I want to say: thank you," he said.

Like Sunak's parents, immigrant staff were pivotal to the NHS's early growth, helping to remake the face of Britain itself in the decades after the war.

Its centrality to national life was underscored in a memorable dance sequence featuring NHS staff and patients during the opening of the London Olympics in 2012.

Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Bieber remixed his hit "Holy" with an NHS choir for Christmas 2020, in a year when the public clapped on their doorsteps and paid tribute to medics battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

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