Strictly and Love Island sensations AJ and Curtis Pritchard, along with AJ’s girlfriend and fellow dancer Abbie Quinnen, surprised NHS staff and patients around London yesterday with tea, treats and even an impromptu dance class, as part of celebrations for the NHS’ 74th birthday and nationwide fundraiser the NHS Big Tea.
The UK’s biggest tea break, the NHS Big Tea invites everyone to support our health service by hosting a party with family and friends on the NHS’ birthday. Led by NHS Charities Together, thousands are expected to have taken part across the nations and raise vital funds in support of the UK’s 238 NHS charities.
Brothers AJ and Curtis, who have been professionals on Strictly Come Dancing and Ireland’s Dancing with the Stars respectively, have a close personal connection to the NHS after Abbie was treated at Chelsea and Westminster’s specialist burns unit in 2020, following a social media stunt gone wrong.
Since then, Abbie and the Pritchard brothers have been vocal supporters of the NHS and the work of NHS charities across the UK, which raise vital funds to help the NHS go further for staff and patients alike. They took part in the London Landmarks half-marathon in 2021 and 2022, raising funds for CW+, the charity of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Speaking ahead of the visit, AJ said: “I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am for everything Chelsea and Westminster Hospital did for us and for Abbie. The NHS is incredible but it’s been a tough few years and they need our support now more than ever. Funds raised from the NHS Big Tea help NHS charities continue to do their vital work, and Curtis and I are so happy to help shine a spotlight on the amazing contribution they make to the NHS – and have a little boogie of course, like you should at any good birthday party!”
They began the morning at London Ambulance Service, delivering tea and cake to thank workers in the control room where emergencies are handled. After speaking with staff and volunteers about their experiences during the pandemic and beyond, they travelled to surprise familiar faces at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on the London Ambulance Service tea trucks – a service made possible only thanks to charitable donations at the peak of the pandemic, which continue to provide a vital break to NHS staff around the capital.
The Pritchards and Abbie joined staff in celebrating their own NHS Big Tea, and then treated staff to an impromptu dance lesson. They also met staff from CW+, the hospital’s charity, and learnt about the ways charitable support benefits patients and staff, such as building new clinical facilities, delivering an arts in health programme and investing in the latest health innovations to deliver exceptional care.
Reflecting on the morning, Curtis said: “We have loved getting the chance to thank staff and volunteers, and celebrate the NHS Big Tea, as well as hear about people’s experiences of the last couple of years during the pandemic. What many of them have been through is truly harrowing but it’s not over, and I’m totally inspired by their dedication.
“The NHS does an amazing job but it can’t face every challenge alone, which is why the extra support provided by NHS charities to staff and patients is so vital. This is our chance to help and say a big, heartfelt thank you.”
Chris Chaney, CEO of hospital charity CW+ said: “We were thrilled to welcome AJ, Curtis and Abbie on this special visit to mark the NHS’ 74th birthday, which brought fun and excitement to staff and patients. We are so grateful for the trio’s fundraising efforts for CW+ over the past few years which has made a big difference to our hospitals, so it was great to see them again today to celebrate this special occasion. We are also incredibly thankful to NHS Charities Together for their support and funding which has enabled us to enhance the healing environment for patients as well as support staff. A big thank you to Abbie, AJ and Curtis for helping make the NHS Big Tea at Chelsea and Westminster a huge success!”
NHS charities such as CW+ provide additional support beyond what the NHS budget typically covers, and all funds raised from the NHS Big Tea will help the health service go further as it recovers from the most challenging time in its history. Nationwide this includes major redevelopments, research and medical equipment for patients, community partnership programmes that prevent ill health and take pressure off services in the future, and vital new initiatives supporting staff mental health and wellbeing.
Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together said: “As the national, independent charity caring for the NHS, alongside our incredible NHS charity members we are proud to have funded hundreds of projects supporting staff, patients, and communities across the UK. Working together, we take great care to ensure funds go right to where they are needed, getting your support to where it will have the most impact.
“Your extra support makes a vital difference to what we can achieve, and we’re excited to see everyone out celebrating the NHS birthday’ today and raising money where they can. By getting behind the NHS Big Tea, we can all make an important difference to the vital work of NHS charities, and help the health service go further for all of us.”
To sign up to host your own NHS Big Tea event and receive a fundraising support pack, please visit www.nhsbigtea.co.uk.