The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to the “costly sacrifices” made by doctors, nurses and paramedics during the coronavirus outbreak as he marked the 72nd anniversary of the NHS.

Charles also praised the “renewal of our community spirit” that has seen volunteers helping the most vulnerable, key workers playing a vital role and the nation following the lockdown guidance.

His heartfelt praise came in a video message celebrating the NHS’s anniversary, in which he said: “Despite all that has been endured, there is deep cause for gratitude, and a true reason for pride.”

The Health Service was launched on July 5 1948 by Aneurin “Nye” Bevan when he opened Manchester’s Trafford General Hospital as the first NHS institution.

Charles and Camilla meeting NHS staff at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Charles and Camilla meeting NHS staff at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (Ben Birchall/PA)

The NHS has the core principle that it is free at the point of delivery and is based on clinical need.

Charles said in his message: “After more than seven decades, that founding principle, though now familiar, is still a profoundly moving statement of our values – and it has never been more relevant than it is now.

“The current pandemic means that the NHS – and the entire country – has been through the most testing time in the service’s history.

“Our remarkably selfless nurses, doctors, paramedics and countless other staff have made costly sacrifices to provide treatment for more than a hundred thousand patients with coronavirus and thousands more who needed other care.

“And, in tribute to them, we have come together as a nation to thank them for their skill, professionalism and dedication.”

Charles chatted to a range of health and care workers when he visited Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Charles chatted to a range of health and care workers when he visited Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (Ben Birchall/PA)

Charles also highlighted how the pandemic had brought out the best in people, saying: “Of course, our whole society has risen to this extraordinary challenge: from the farmers, fruit and vegetable pickers, delivery drivers and shop workers who provided our food, to the energy workers who kept the lights on, the transport staff and the public servants and business people who continued to provide vital services.

“Every new difficulty has been met with a new solution.

“Countless volunteers have come forward to help those in greatest need and, of course, all have had their part to play by heeding the official advice to help stop the spread of this cruel virus.

“This renewal of our community spirit has been a silver lining during this dark time.”

The prince, who met NHS workers when he visited a hospital in Gloucester last month, added: “During these past months, the phrase ‘to shield’ has taken on an emphasis it did not have before.

“But while the meaning may be new, the principle of protection for those in need is timeless.”