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Country to come together for biggest thank you

Everybody across the country is being encouraged to come together on the birthday of the NHS, on Sunday 5 July, to thank not only NHS staff but all key workers, good neighbours and all those who are helping to get us through this difficult period.

The NHS has been working with the newly founded Together coalition @togethercoalit to build a national moment where we can thank everyone who has helped them – and one that aims to reinforce the social connections we will need to get through the next stage of the crisis.

In a joint letter published today (Wednesday, June 10) dozens of individuals and groups have voiced their support for making Sunday 5th July a day to bring people together to connect with neighbours and their communities, to say thank you to all those who are helping us through the COVID-19 crisis.

Supporters of the initiative include grassroots community leaders, carers, emergency workers, sportspeople, religious leaders, celebrities and organisations including the CBI, trade unions, the Scouts and Guides.  Among those supporting the day are:

  • NHS England Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens
  • Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England
  • Most Rev. Justin Welby, chair of Together Steering Group
  • Annemarie Plas, founder of ‘Clap for Carers’
  • Dame Katherine Grainger, Chair of UK Sport
  • Baroness Doreen Lawrence
  • Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director, Young Vic Theatre
  • Gary Lineker
  • Tim Peake

The two key moments during the weekend will be:

  • A minute’s silence on the evening of July 4th when people will be asked to light a candle in their window in remembrance of all who have died during this time.
  • A moment of thanks and connection on July 5th when we take part in one last country-wide clap of thanks and then stay out to raise a glass or have a cup of tea with our neighbours.

Justin Welby, chair of the Together steering group, added:

“This crisis has in many ways made us more grateful for each other and more indebted to the workers who put themselves at risk to keep our country running and protect the vulnerable. It has shown people at their best – volunteering, helping neighbours, protecting those at greatest risk, pulling together as communities to support one another. My sincere hope is that this weekend will serve as a powerful moment of remembrance, thanks and connection, as we come together and commit to helping to create kinder, closer more connected communities.”

Kwame Kwei Armah, Director of the Young Vic said:

“At a time when there is so much emphasis on what divides us, giving thanks and connecting with our communities is one of the things that unites us. I hope we can all take a moment to mark it and be part of building the closer communities that we’ll need in the future.”

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Office for England, said:

“The NHS’s birthday is an important moment when we say thank you – to staff across the health service, but also to all those who have supported us as we’ve been tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone’s had a part to play, and community spirit has been one of the few positives of this time. Throughout its history the NHS has brought the whole country together, treating everyone based on need not ability to pay. So we’re honoured that the /Together coalition have chosen the NHS birthday to pull the country together.”

This crisis is causing immense hardship and suffering – many people have lost loved ones, are struggling with their own physical and mental health and are facing acute financial pressures. It has come at a time when we were already struggling with rising loneliness, profound inequality and divisive political debates. But we also know that this crisis has in many ways shown people at their best – volunteering, helping neighbours, protecting those at greatest risk, pulling together as communities to support one another.

New polling for the Together campaign has shown the country feels more connected than it did prior to the crisis. Some 6 in 10 people (60%) say that “Overall, the public’s response to the coronavirus crisis has shown the unity of our society more than its divides.”  Just 15% disagree.

Further details of the specific events being planned and how individuals, organisations and businesses can play their part in their communities will be provided in the days ahead.

Together is a coalition that everyone is invited to join, from community groups across the country to some of the UK’s best-known organisations. Its aim is to bring people together and bridge divides, to help build a kinder, closer and more connected society.