The nation is showing its thanks to the incredible people who have been there for us all during the pandemic on the birthday of the NHS, with thousands of events taking place across the UK today for NHS Charities Together’s NHS Big Tea.

As part of the day, NHS staff have been invited to a special thank you birthday tea at Buckingham Palace hosted by The Duke of Cambridge, who as Royal Patron for NHS Charities Together. The Duke will also be joined by NHS Charities Together’s Chief Executive Ellie Orton OBE and Sir Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of the NHS as a guest of the charity.

The event at Buckingham Palace is one of thousands taking place across the UK in hospitals, schools, community groups and people’s back gardens as part of the NHS Big Tea. Over 5,000 hosts have signed up this year, making it the biggest yet.

The Buckingham Palace reception will take place in the palace gardens and will be attended by NHS staff, ranging from respiratory ward nurses and counsellors to hospital doctors and care workers. All of them, like so many NHS staff, have gone the extra mile over the last year to tackle the pandemic, from supporting the mental health of patients and NHS staff and overseeing the vaccination programme to treating very sick patients with Covid. Others have been behind the scenes ensuring that the health service can continue with its vital work.

The attendees have been invited to the event as a special thank you and will be able to share their experiences of the past year with The Duke.

Alexandra Heys, a nurse ward manager, pictured on the right

Speaking about what it means to be attending the Buckingham Palace event, Alexandra Heys, Nurse Ward Manager in the Respiratory High Care Unit at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“The special tea at Buckingham Palace means a lot to NHS staff who have been through so much over the last year and I feel so honoured to be meeting The Duke today. I know from personal experience that the past year has taken a huge toll on NHS staff who have worked incredibly hard to take care of patients during a challenging time. My team at the Respiratory High Care Unit has cared for over 300 very sick Covid patients, all of whom required dedicated around the clock care. All NHS staff have gone above and beyond, providing additional care in difficult circumstances, including connecting isolated and very sick patients with their families in their most challenging moments. We have all been through a lot, so seeing the public get behind the NHS Big Tea on such as massive scale is an immense boost and really makes a difference.”

Another attendee, Suman Shrestha, a Nursing Consultant in ITU at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, has worked in intensive care at Frimley Park Hospital since 2001 and during the pandemic, on top of caring for Covid patients, trained more than 400 redeployed doctors and nurses so they could help in Intensive Care.

Suman Shrestha, a nursing consultant in ITU at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust

Suman, who was the first Nepalese male nurse in the country, said: 

“I am absolutely thrilled to be invited to this Royal event and represent Frimley Health Trust. I’m really looking forward to the experience, particularly after working through both waves of Covid. I’ve worked in Intensive Care for 20 years and it has been the most challenging, worrying time ever. I am fortunate to work with a fantastic group of individuals, I couldn’t have got through it without them so I am honoured to be representing them at the palace.”

The NHS Big Tea is a chance for communities to come together for a moment of reflection on the past year and to thank NHS staff and each other for the role we have all played in tackling the pandemic. Vital funds will be raised for independent charity NHS Charities Together, which is working with its member NHS charities across the UK to support the NHS at the most challenging time in its history.

This comes as new research released by NHS Charities Together shows that 83% of the public agree that NHS staff will need our support more than ever this year. 87% agree that the NHS is one of the UK’s most beloved institutions, and 68% agree that the coronavirus pandemic has increased their love for the NHS.

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 or at any time that suits them near the day.

Ellie Orton OBE, CEO of NHS Charities Together, said:

“We are so thrilled that our Joint Royal Patron The Duke of Cambridge is hosting this event at Buckingham Palace today. It shows our huge gratitude for our NHS staff, and it will be an incredibly special memory for all those staff attending.

“The NHS has been the nation’s backbone over the last year and NHS staff its beating heart. They have gone truly above and beyond over the past year and are continuing to do so as the NHS recovers from its most challenging time in history.

“We urge all of the public to get involved and raise a mug – it’s not too late to join in! Take part at 3pm today or anytime over the coming days. Your kind support will go towards giving staff, patients and volunteers the additional help they need so that they continue with their vital work.”

About the NHS Big Tea

Taking place on the NHS’s birthday on 5th July, NHS Charities Together is urging the public to join the UK’s biggest tea break and be part of a national outpouring of thanks while raising money for the incredible people in the NHS who have been there for us over the last year.

Everyone can take part 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.

NHS Charities Together will use the funds raised through the NHS Big Tea to increase the practical and emotional support available to NHS staff, patients and volunteers are they continue to battle the Covid crisis and start down the long road to recovery.