EMOTIONAL speeches and poems were read outside Whiston Hospital to mark the one-year anniversary of the first coronavirus lockdown.

A commemorative rose was planted at the newly-created Rainbow Garden, near to the main entrance at Whiston Hospital, in memory of all of those lost to COVID-19.

Following a minute's silence at the hospital at midday, chief executive of St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust Ann Marr read a speech in which she commended the "bravery" of hospital staff during the pandemic.

She also paid tribute to Trust staff who have lost their lives due to coronavirus.

PICTURES > Staff at Whiston mark National Day of Reflection

In her speech Ann Marr said: "One year ago today, the country entered the first period of the Covid pandemic.

"Here at the Trust we admitted our first Covid-positive patient on March 12, 2020 at Newton Hospital and on this day last year we were treating 11 patients for Covid in all of our hospitals.

"Twelve months on, we've admitted more than 3,000 patients suffering the effects of this devastating virus.

"Tragically, we have lost three members of our STHK family, Sadeeq Elhowsh, Joe Fairclough and Margaret Waine. They will never be forgotten and their families will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.

"Many of our staff have also suffered personal loss or illness themselves but have consistently put their own fears aside to comfort and care for the needs of others."

Ann Marr, chief executive of the St Helens and Knowsley Trust

Ann Marr, chief executive of the St Helens and Knowsley Trust

She added: "This bravery should never be taken for granted, the professionalism shown throughout this crisis has been truly remarkable. There is still some way to go and many challenges ahead but I have no doubt that we can face them together with the same determined spirit that has brought us this far.

"As we take this time to remember those we have lost, we must also recognise that the number of lives saved has been immeasurable and is a credit to the care and commitment of all those who have served the NHS so heroically for the past 12 months."

"Today, as we begin the work on what will be our new Rainbow Garden, a place for our staff, patients and their families to reflect and remember.

"We must also look to the future, the rollout of the vaccine is our hope for better times ahead, or as Captain Sir Tom Moore said: 'tomorrow will be a good day'."

Emma Whitby

Emma Whitby

Emma Whitby, sister on the intensive care unit, read out the poem Harbour, written by Grace Nichols, in May 2020.

Former Covid patient Christopher Williams, who spent six weeks at Whiston being treated, with four of them on ICU, tearfully read a poem called The NHS Army.

Former Covid patient Christopher Williams reads out an emotional poem The NHS Army

Former Covid patient Christopher Williams reads out an emotional poem The NHS Army

Mr Williams said: "I am honoured to read this poem today as a thank you to all you who cared for me.

"I dedicate this poem, by Max Kelly, to every member of staff at the Trust. It was written during the first few weeks of the pandemic in April."