THERE was tea, cake and even a tear was shed yesterday as Oxfordshire marked the 70th Anniversary of the NHS.

Staff past and present, patients and volunteers gathered at NHS sites across the county to mark the major milestone of one of the world’s greatest institutions.

The National Health Service was founded on July 5, 1948 making free-at-the-point-of-care treatment accessible to all.

The NHS and the notion of free healthcare to those that need it has since become part of Britain’s identity, and what better way to celebrate it than with the quintessential pastime of tea and cake.

One of the largest celebrations was at the John Radcliffe Hospital where hundreds of people crammed into the League of Friends cafe for the cake-cutting ceremony and an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday, causing some who had come along to cry.

Mary Campbell, who began her nursing career in Oxford in 1948 was asked to help cut the cake, and called it a ‘wonderful’ occasion.

Sarah Vaccari of Oxford Hospitals Charity, which funded the celebrations across the Oxford University Hospital sites, said: “The spontaneous singing of Happy Birthday was a special moment, I had a tear in my eye I don’t mind admitting.”

Staff at some sites even donned 1940s-era costumes providing a hint of nostalgia for those who remembered the early days of the National Health Service.

Board vice chairman at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Geoff Salt oversaw the ceremony proceedings at the John Radcliffe and said: "It's a real landmark and it means so much to everyone in the county.

"During the course of the year there isn't anyone who doesn't, either through friends, family or loved ones, come into contact with the NHS and it's a privilege to be able to celebrate with the tremendous staff and volunteers here today."

Hundreds of people also gathered to celebrate the milestone at Jubilee House, the headquarters of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

Chief executive of Oxfordshire CCG Louise Patten, said: “It’s great to see so many colleagues from different parts of the NHS in Oxfordshire celebrating this momentous day in such fantastic weather.

“Thanks to everyone who helped organise this party and all the other events across the county, and thanks to everyone who has attended them and raised money for local charities."

Sobell House Hospice also hosted a special tea party for its ward staff.