Marking the 75th anniversary of the NHS (Wednesday 5th July), Their Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales have surprised NHS staff and patients from across the UK with a very special NHS Big Tea party – even arriving early to help lay the tables, put finishing touches on a birthday cake, and debate the age-old question: jam or cream first.
Hosted by NHS Charities Together – the national charity caring for the NHS, of which Their Royal Highnesses are Patrons – and television presenter Mel Giedroyc, the event was attended by members of the workforce and patients representing myriad achievements of the NHS and NHS charities over the last 75 years. It was held in the wellbeing garden of St Thomas’ Hospital in London – a wellbeing initiative funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.
The Prince and Princess met with guests ranging from Aneira Thomas, the first baby born on the NHS, to pioneers in research and those on the frontline tackling Covid-19. The guest list honoured staff past and present, including three generations of NHS workers from one family – inspired by grandmother and former nurse of nearly 50 years, Blanche Hines, who was part of the Windrush generation.
Their Royal Highnesses discussed current challenges and thanked staff for the work they continue to do, and – in the spirit of the tea party – even attempted to settle the long-standing scone debate regarding jam or cream first, with The Princess voting for jam, and Prince William preferring whatever is closest. They concluded their visit with a video message for the entire NHS:
Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, said:
“We want to say a huge thank you to our Royal Patrons, and everyone who’s helped celebrate the 75th anniversary of our beloved NHS this year. As the national charity caring for the NHS, NHS Charities Together is here for anyone who wants to give something back to its people, who all give so much to us, and that extra support has never been so important. It includes providing staff psychologists, counselling, peer support training and so much more.
“It’s not too late to arrange your own NHS Big Tea party and raise vital funds to support NHS charities – find out how you can get involved at nhscharitiestogether.co.uk.”
Dr Neil Rees, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist leading the staff wellbeing programme at Guy’s and St Thomas’, which has benefited from NHS charity funding, said:
“The Prince of Wales was very mindful of the support that’s been given by NHS charities and how essential that is, and really understood the issues and complexities – particularly with the current challenges we’re facing. The pandemic shone a light on the needs of staff, but he was keen to talk about how we maintain the care roles like mine provide, and how charities play a major role in that. It was incredibly special to be recognised in that way.”
Eurovision and former Great-British Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc was the host for the event on behalf of NHS Charities Together, and said:
“The NHS is part of our DNA in this country so it was an utter privilege to be involved in this NHS Big Tea surprise to celebrate 75 years of the NHS and NHS charities. People were so delighted and it was just a quintessentially lovely, British day, celebrating our health service that we all love so much. I hope we will continue to love and take care of it for the next 750 years, because it’s something truly precious – and what would we do without it? I have it to thank for my hernia operations!”
The Prince and Princess of Wales became Royal Patrons for NHS Charities Together in December 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, their support has helped to shine a light on the incredible and ongoing contribution of the NHS workforce and the role of NHS charities in helping the NHS go further for everyone.
Now entering its sixth year, the NHS Big Tea brings the nation together to celebrate the NHS and raise funds to provide the extra support needed for staff, patients, and volunteers. All funds raised from the NHS Big Tea contribute to key projects supporting the incredible NHS workforce, the long-term recovery of the NHS following Covid-19, and projects improving care for patients and communities.