This week marks 73 years since the foundation of our National Health Service.

Since Aneurin Bevan received the keys to the Park Hospital in Trafford and inaugurated a revolution in the social contract that has saved and improved untold numbers of lives in its seven decades of operation.

Nye of course took inspiration from a successful local model that he knew well enough – Tredegar’s medical aid society - and applied it nationwide for the benefit of all of our citizens, and it’s Blaenau Gwent’s critical role in the foundation of our greatest national institution that we proudly celebrate every July.

Our corner of the Valleys’ seminal contribution to the “the most civilised step any country had ever taken”, as Nye described it to the very first patient treated on the NHS.

Covid-19 has placed these structures under their most intense pressure we have ever seen, and NHS and social care staff have consistently responded with the dedication, compassion and professionalism that demonstrate and uphold the values which drove Nye to establish it seventy years ago.

We still face a threat from the virus and, although the success of our world-leading vaccination programme buys us essential time as well as protection against serious illness, we must continue to exercise caution in the face of rising case numbers.

But we know that the issues which dominated our health service prior to Covid have not disappeared as a consequence of the pandemic and addressing them must be an absolute priority as restrictions begin to be relaxed.

From chronic conditions that need to be monitored, to symptoms which need to be assessed to mental health issues that need prompt intervention and support, our NHS recovery plan has to get underway immediately.

This is why I have been pressing the government on the need to ensure that patients are able to access face-to-face appointments both with GPs and hospital staff when necessary, while I continue to raise the importance of access to treatment with our local health board.

Finally, in a year that reminds us so starkly of the sacrifices of so many, let us make sure that the heaviest of doubts that we owe to those who have worked tirelessly to save lives and care for the vulnerable is properly recognised and repaid, and I will be doing all that I can to support efforts to secure this.