A service at Westminster Abbey has been held to mark the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service.
During the event the Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to the NHS, describing it as the "noblest manifestation of the character of our country".
Hundreds of former and serving NHS staff, the Prince of Wales and Health Secretary Alan Johnson joined the celebration to mark its creation 60 years ago this week.
The Prime Minister told the congregation at Westminster Abbey: "First conceived in 1948 in a bold and daring leap of faith, the National Health Service has cared for tens of millions of people and literally saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
"And we give thanks because it has freed all of us from the fear of the cost of care when we fall ill.
"Loved and cherished like no other public service, it has established itself as an enduring and practical expression of the shared values that unite our whole country."
In the run-up to the anniversary the PM had talked about the eye surgery that saved his sight when aged 16.
Free healthcare for all became a reality when Clement Attlee's Labour government introduced the NHS amidst the gloom of post-war austerity.
The architect of the groundbreaking initiative was the then health secretary, Aneurin Bevan, who on July 5, 1948, opened Park Hospital in Manchester, formally launching the NHS.
For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella organisation to provide services.
The NHS introduced free healthcare to all in 1948. It had a budget of £248 million and employed 16,864 GPs.
Last year the NHS employed 33,364 GPs and its budget topped £105 billion.