Annemarie Plas with others taking part in clap for carers Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Annemarie Plas is credited with starting the clap for carers initiative, which ran for 10 weeks

People are being encouraged to celebrate the NHS’s 72nd birthday and thank key workers for their support during the coronavirus pandemic with a nationwide clap next month.

NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby are among the influential figures supporting the initiative.

The initiative would make 5 July an official day to pay tribute.

Clap for carers founder Annemarie Plas is also backing the campaign.

Dutch-born Londoner Ms Plas was credited with starting the nationwide applause for NHS staff and key workers, which saw millions of people clapping at their windows and on their doorsteps on Thursday evenings in lockdown.

Ms Plas, who called for the event to end in its 10th week and be replaced by an annual event, said: “Now is the time to expand this gratitude and acknowledge everyone who has and is still helping us through this crisis.

“I hope we can make 5 July a day which unites us in a countrywide ‘thank you’.”

In a letter, compiled by the Together coalition, public figures including Sir Simon and the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the leader of the Church of England, voiced their support.

It said: “We all owe a debt of gratitude to the nurses, doctors, physios, porters, cleaners, and countless others who have delivered for patients and their families along with all those in the care sector.

“But we are also hugely grateful to the shop workers, transport staff, delivery drivers, teachers, refuse collectors, farmers, armed service personnel and other key workers who have kept the country going.”

Sir Simon added he wanted to thank the public, in particular, whose support had meant so much – “from the children who put rainbows and NHS signs in their windows, to all those who saved lives by staying at home to slow the spread of this terrible virus”.