NHS Charities Together has brought together celebrities to sign an open letter in support of a moment of reflection and thanks for NHS workers in the form of the NHS Big Tea at 3pm on 5th July – including actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry, Line of Duty actress Vicky McClure and This Country actress and writer Daisy May Cooper.

The charity says the event, which takes place on the birthday of the NHS, will be a national outpouring of thanks for NHS staff and each other while raising money for the incredible people in the NHS who have been there for the nation over the last year. The letter follows a recent report by the Health and Social Care select committee showing that NHS and care staff in England are exhausted and overstretched, facing stress and anxiety.

Funds raised will increase the practical and emotional support available to NHS staff, patients and volunteers as they continue to battle the Covid crisis and start down the long road to recovery.  

The letter, which was published in the Daily Express this week, reads:

“It’s been a tough year for all of us, separated from friends, family and loved ones. While we aren’t out of the woods yet, things are looking more hopeful. We are likely to be able spend time with loved ones who we have been parted from for far too long.

 “That’s why we are combining forces to urge you to take a moment of reflection and join the NHS Big Tea on the 5th July – the birthday of the NHS. While still following any ongoing Covid restrictions, this is an opportunity to get together with the people who matter in your life, virtually or in person, and raise a mug of thanks to NHS staff and volunteers.

“While we hope the worst of the pandemic has passed, the challenges will continue for the NHS and the staff and volunteers who have given so much. This is a chance for all of us to show we have got their back just as they have ours. So please sign up to host a Big Tea and say thank you.”

The letter has been signed by 17 celebrities, also including actress Olivia Coleman, TV presenter and journalist Lorraine Kelly, and doctor and TV presenters Dr Hilary and Dr Ranj.

Mental health impact

Recent research published by NHS Charities Together also showed the pandemic is having a significant impact on the mental health of NHS staff. Just over half the NHS staff surveyed reported that their mental health has declined since the start of the pandemic, with over two thirds of these (67%) reporting anxiety and a third (35%) reporting depression.

Showing the importance of a tea break, further research from NHS Charities Together shows that three quarters of us believe it would have been a real boost to be able to share a cuppa with a friend or loved one during the painful lockdowns, although sadly that wasn’t possible. 

According to the same research, 70% of us are grateful for the efforts of NHS staff and other frontline workers during the pandemic as well as the incredible work done to develop and distribute the vaccines that are leading us out of this dark period. 

Everyone can take part in the NHS Big Tea by raising a mug or holding their own virtual or physical tea party (following the latest social distancing guidance) at 3pm on that day or at any time that suits them on or around that date.

Former doctor and author of “This is Going to Hurt” Adam Kay who has raised over £250,000 for NHS Charities Together with his book “Dear NHS” said:

“We have never been more grateful for the NHS and the 1.4 million brilliant people who make it up. It’s no secret that NHS staff don’t always receive the help they need, and the Big Tea is a fantastic campaign to raise funds to provide additional support for them. I’m thrilled to be raising a mug to everyone from physios to pharmacists, ODPs to ophthalmologists and receptions to radiographers.”

Speaking about the open letter and immense support received so far, Ellie Orton, CEO of NHS Charities Together said:

“Seeing so many well-known names urge the public to join in and support the NHS Big Tea is amazing, and we are so thankful.

“The NHS has done an amazing job tackling the pandemic but in these unprecedented times there is more we can all do to help the NHS go above and beyond what would otherwise be possible as it recovers from the most challenging time in its history.

“The NHS Big Tea gives friends, family and neighbours the opportunity to reunite and thank NHS staff, volunteers and each other for the role we have all played over the last year, while also raising funds to give staff and patients the additional support they need.”

Supporting frontline staff

NHS Charities Together has so far allocated £125 million in a range of projects supporting staff, patients and volunteers. These include areas such as counselling services for NHS staff, helplines and intensive psychological support for post-traumatic stress disorder, through its 240 NHS member charities covering the entire UK. Funding has also supported staff with practical needs like food, drink and a place to rest, enabling staff to continue with their vital life-saving work.

The evidence shows these projects are already making a huge difference for frontline staff, with over three in ten NHS staff surveyed* saying they most value the counselling support and support with practical needs, like food and drink, that have been provided by NHS charities.