The Coronavirus pandemic affected the whole world last year and with new lockdowns starting 2021 off. Getting back to normal is looking further away. However, ‘the new normal’ has brought many people closer together, seen more people enjoying spending time outside and shown how resilient we are.

The sense of community shone through last year, with people volunteering to help their neighbours and strangers with weekly shops, friendly phone calls and three quarters of a million people committed to volunteer with the NHS, beating their original target within 24 hours.

The NHS will celebrate its 73rd anniversary this year and the work they have done for us deserves to be celebrated. They have been able to adapt to new technologies, ensuring patient safety and have worked tirelessly since the first UK case back in February.

The NHS became the first health service in the world to deliver the Oxford jab, with Brian Pinker an 82 year-old dialysis patient being the first to be vaccinated. Mass vaccination centres have been set up around the UK, with Matt Hancock promising that every adult will be vaccinated by autumn.

2.4 million people have now received a coronavirus jab across the UK. – Boris Johnson

We have celebrated our key workers with murals in the streets, homemade signs outside people’s houses and the weekly claps for carers, which returned last Thursday as clap for your heroes.

We decided to start off 2021 with some positive news. We asked family and friends working within the NHS to share stories of their past year.

  • Manager at a GP practice, Kent

My last year working in General Practice has been very different to normal years. We used to serve as a hub to the community, and since the pandemic, we have had to close our doors and restrict access.  Appointments have moved to mainly telephone or video consultations rather than face-to-face and this has been a huge adjustment both for our patients and for us. Our patients have embraced this change positively and have been extremely supportive and grateful. The amazing team of staff at the Practice have pulled together, helped with brainstorming throughout the constant changing times of the pandemic, and worked tirelessly. Now, we face our next challenge, and have started to deliver the Coronavirus Vaccination Programme. In just over 2 weeks, have vaccinated more than 900 patients, and we hope to be able to vaccinate 500 patients per week in the near future.

  • Staff nurse, Wythenshawe Hospital

The previous year has been challenging working through the pandemic of COVID-19. My usual role of caring for cardiac patients changed to working on wards with patients of various health needs.  It is important to take positivity out of this experience despite the downs each of us have faced. All NHS workers came together in solidarity and supported each other. I have felt proud to work and to be a nurse in this time.

  • Staff nurse, Frimley Park Hospital

Starting my first nursing job at the beginning of a pandemic was not how I imagined my career to begin. What the pandemic has demonstrated is the adaptability and work ethic of an NHS under increasing pressures and a camaraderie that is second to none. Health care professionals are receiving a variety of training and experiences as they are being rerolled to meet the demands of the pandemic. Although the past year has provided unprecedented challenges, it has also show cased the ability and resilience of our NHS and it’s amazing and hardworking staff.

  • Clinical Support Worker/Covid Testing Team, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Hospitals

Throughout the pandemic, I have worked across Acute Respiratory, Intensive Care and COVID-19 quarantine wards. The kindness of others is truly what has got me through this difficult year. We would have members of the public bringing us cakes, freshly made lunches and those much-needed hand creams! I found being unable to see my family extremely challenging, but I managed to overcome this by building such strong friendships with my colleagues who of course felt the same. We try to keep the morale high and care for each other every single day.

  • MFE, Covid, Ortho, Bank, NHS Tayside

I qualified as a nurse in August 2019 and began my first post in an Elderly Medicine ward with some wonderful staff and mentors, whilst also starting a Masters course. When the pandemic began to affect the workings of the hospital in March 2020, I volunteered to move wards because I didn’t have underlying health issues, and neither did anybody I lived with at the time. I spent three months in the COVID wards and although it was challenging at times, I really had a very positive experience working there. I found that, even though the rules changed daily, everybody I worked with really pulled together and looked after one another. I also gained a lot of new nursing experience which will be valuable moving forward in my career. When the COVID wards shut after the first wave, I ended up in a completely different specialty (Ortho admissions) and ended up gaining even more experience and worked with new staff again, all of whom really helped me settle in. I left in September for university again, but have continued as a bank nurse, and now feel much more confident working in different areas because of the opportunities given to me during this strange year.

  • GP, Liverpool

I am a GP in Liverpool. During the pandemic there has been a major change in our work from mainly face to face consultations to all consultations being initially telephone appointments. We have started using text messages a lot more and all prescriptions are now sent electronically. There have been some exciting improvements in the NHS due to the Covid 19 pandemic including the way we communicate with our hospital colleagues. I volunteered to receive the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine in June. Juggling work with childcare for our 3 young children (with my wife also working in NHS) whilst school/nursery/childminder closed was a big challenge. Luckily my mother-in-law joined our bubble to enable us to both work.

  • Charge Nurse, tayside

There have been many trials and tribulations throughout the pandemic. The way staff have come together to support each other in whatever way they can. In the early days I had to self-isolate and a colleague went and did some shopping for me. The staff have stepped up to the plate, retraining or “upskilling” where necessary. The recognition from the Scottish government has also been welcomed with the £500 bonus being greatly received.