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New health service chief backs tribute to staff who lost their life caring for us

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The Daily Express is the proud backer of the sculpture, which will be erected to honour all those who died in the line of duty fighting Covid. It is set to be unveiled next year at a site in London.

The mother of three succeeded Sir Simon Stevens a fortnight ago as the head of NHS England and now leads an organisation with a £150billion annual budget and 1.2 million staff.

In her first newspaper interview since starting her role, she said: “Thousands of dedicated former colleagues answered our call to come out of retirement, and nearly 15,000 student nurses and midwives and medical students stepped up and started their careers early to help. Members of the NHS family past, present and future united to help care for those who needed us most.

“Their extraordinary efforts to save thousands of lives day in and day out will never be forgotten.

“And so it is right that this memorial is being created as a tribute to their hard work, compassion and skill in going above and beyond to care for others.”

Mrs Pritchard has worked in the health service for 25 years after attending a comprehensive school in Durham and studying history at Oxford University. She said: “From those working on the frontline or those behind the scenes, their contribution to keeping the public safe has been enormous and should be remembered. Few of us have remained untouched by what is the greatest public health emergency in a century.

“Each of my NHS colleagues who sadly died leaves an irreplaceable gap in a family and a workplace, and I want them to be remembered.

“I want them to be remembered for their unwavering dedication, professionalism and compassion, exhibited during the very hardest of times, representing everything that is celebrated about our NHS.”

It is thought at least 1,561 health and social care staff have died in the fight against Covid.

The 20ft bronze sculpture – as yet unnamed – will immortalise every frontline worker who perished by carrying their names.

Their sacrifice will be remembered with the inscription: “You laid your love for those in life. Your sleep is not in vain.”

The 400kg artwork by sculptor Nicola Ravenscroft has been given the working title Breath and will feature two intertwined trees with hundreds of leaves, each individually hand-sculpted. It also will feature catkins, which chime in the wind.

We are asking Daily Express readers to make this magnificent monument a reality by donating what you can to meet the £250,000 cost.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I want to thank the Daily Express for their campaign championing our fantastic health service, which has done so much for all of us, particularly during these challenging times.

“A sculpture like this will mark the incredible work NHS and care workers have done and continue to do every day.”

To donate please visit www.express.co.uk/memorial

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COMMENT BY ELLIE ORTON

THE past 18 months have taken their toll on everyone.

As a global community, we have all seen the devastation caused by the pandemic – and many of us have lost friends, family and loved ones to Covid-19.

In the UK, our incredible NHS staff have worked tirelessly to minimise that loss, putting our health and safety before their own.

But these incredible acts of generosity have come at a cost, with many staff sadly paying the ultimate price. Hospital staff have watched as both patients and colleagues died in unprecedented numbers. They have had to step in and say goodbye when family members were kept apart.

Many vulnerable people and their carers have even been forced away from their own families, leaving them isolated at the worst possible time.

Placed under huge pressure, while contending with long hours and trauma at work, frontline staff have had their mental health impacted severely, and this problem continues to escalate.

This is because, as much as we wish it were, this pandemic is not yet over.

Wider challenges will continue for the NHS and its workers in the long term, with exhausted staff still tackling growing volumes of Covid admissions, while also handling busy clinics as they reopen.

The anxieties that come with this kind of pressure are difficult to fathom, which is why we must continue to be there for them and show our support however we can.

By finding opportunities to thank them, such as this memorial, the heroes saving lives every day might begin to know how grateful we are for their sacrifices.

  • Ellie Orton is Chief Executive, NHS Charities Together

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