NHS staff, volunteers, 999 crews and well-wishers gathered outside the hospital this evening to mark what might prove to be the final clap for carers event.

Half a dozen ambulances, officers from Gablecross police station and even a B&Q lorry with a special message for key workers turned out to support those at Great Western Hospital.

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The show of support came ahead of a light show planned to start at 9.30pm.

Sakura Matthews, nine, from Penhill, had turned up with a rainbow painting. “The NHS is good and I want to support it. I’ve been here every week.” Dad Robbie, 37, added: “We came down to show our support – keeping our two metre’s distance.”

Helen Eggleton, an operations officer with South West Ambulance Service, said it had become a weekly tradition for her paramedics and emergency care assistants to go to the hospital for the Thursday clap. She said: “It’s the last one, so we thought we’d make the special effort to say thank you to the public.”

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Fr Isidore Nnam Di Obi of Holy Family Catholic Church said: “It’s important for the community. Some of the people here are my parishioners, who are working in the hospital. It’s good to be here today and support them in what they do.”

Clap for carers founder Annemarie Plas said the 10th week of applauding NHS workers and carers would be an ideal time for it to end. She has instead suggested it become an annual event.

She said: “To have the most impact I think it is good to stop it at its peak. Without getting too political, I share some of the opinions that some people have about it becoming politicised. I think the narrative is starting to change and I don’t want the clap to be negative.”

Adver readers voted overwhelmingly to end the weekly clap. In an online poll, 81 per cent of those who took part said it was time to stop.

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Earlier this week, hospital bosses praised those who had shown their support for the NHS during the lockdown.

GWH chief executive Kevin McNamara said: “Whilst the pandemic has perhaps been the most challenging period in NHS history, there are lots of good things to come out of it.

“One of those is that spirit of Swindon that I really hope we can hold onto and retain in the months and years ahead and have that as a lasting legacy of our response to the Covid pandemic.”

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