Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has paid tribute to the NHS on its 72nd anniversary, saying the health service has a personal resonance for him as his late mother worked for it.
His comments come as the nation has been urged to show support for the NHS by lighting candles in its honour.
Sir Keir said: “It’s quite personal for me.
“My mum was a nurse and a very proud nurse, she loved nursing. But she was also very ill.
“She got a very rare illness when she was 11, which is where the immune system turns on itself and she was advised that she wouldn’t walk after she was 20, she’d be in a wheelchair, she wouldn’t be able to have children.
“She was determined that wouldn’t be the case. The NHS was there for her as she got more and more ill.
“In her twenties, she had to have serious operations.
“She became even iller and the NHS which she’d served and loved as a nurse suddenly became, if you like, her lifeline.”
Sir Keir recalled the times he saw his mother in hospital.
He said: “Many, many times she got gravely ill and it was the NHS that she turned to, and I remember as a boy, a teenager, being in high dependency units, in intensive care units, with my mum, watching nurses and other support staff keep my mum alive.
“They did that on more than one occasion – it’s etched in my memory. For them, it was just the day job. They were doing that every day.
“So, it’s very personal for me and I’m very grateful to the NHS and my mum was very grateful, she loved the NHS through the many decades that she absolutely depended on them.”
The Labour leader added: “My mum sadly passed away but now my wife works in the NHS, so we’re still part of that family and I can see every day that in the NHS people go to work not just because it’s a job, but with a deep, deep sense of public service and helping other people.
“It’s really profound and personal, and I’m very proud of the NHS as I know so many other people are.”