The new NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard acknowledged and thanked health service staff and volunteers for their “extraordinary team effort” while the country fights Omicron.
Pritchard, who took up the post in July, praised the efforts of doctors, nurses, therapists, porters and other staff who have worked hard to recover services impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In her first Christmas message as the NHS chief, she praised all those involved in the NHS Covid vaccination programme which delivered more than 7 million jabs, including boosters, in the last 10 days alone.
She said: “We’ve had another extraordinary 12 months.
“From January when hospitals admitted 100,000 patients with Covid in a single month, while also delivering the world-class NHS covid vaccination programme; to receiving the George Cross during the summer, marked by a service at St Paul’s, pulling out all the stops to make progress on recovering backlogs of care; and now facing the uncertainty of Omicron and winter pressures.
“The pandemic is the greatest challenge in the NHS’s history and the defining challenge of our professional lives”.
She added that health service staff have worked “at record speed to turbo-charge the NHS Covid-19 booster programme and protect communities against the Omicron variant.”
Pritchard went on to praise the public for their response in recent months to the new variant, as more than 18 million people have booked in for a booster and more than 25 million people have had their top-up, since September.
Besides the vaccination programme, staff have continued to provide care to patients, answering the highest number of 999 calls for any November.
This year the NHS has also rolled out new, revolutionary drugs, and implemented innovative treatments, including for Spinal Muscular Atrophy, type one diabetes, sickle cell disease, stroke, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis and hepatitis C.
Pritchard finished her annual address to staff and patients, by thanking NHS staff who have worked relentlessly this year, and last year, and will continue to do so throughout Christmas and into next year.
Vaccination will continue on Christmas Day and Boxing Day at sites across to protect as many people as possible in the face of the threat from Omicron.
She said: “My very best wishes to you, and to your families and friends, who I know provide such vital support throughout the year.”