DEDICATED students at a North-East college are celebrating the 71st birthday of the NHS by forming a student club devoted to supporting local healthcare services.

Students from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College have formed the We Love the NHS group, which will support and fundraise for the County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust Charity.

The group was launched as part of the Big Tea family fun day at Darlington Memorial Hospital, which marked 71 years since the NHS was founded. The event featured stalls, entertainment, visits from the Darlington Battle Bus and the Hartlepool Bubble Man, and other family-friendly activities.

Money raised from the day will go towards the trust’s Appeal to create a centre of excellence for cancer care in Durham.

Emily May Davitt, a student at Queen Elizabeth and member of the club, said: “Today we’re running a raffle, a tombola, and selling merchandise to support the Big Tea event. We’re also painting a mural for children visiting the hospital.

“Our work will continue in September, as we launch the ‘QE Loves the NHS’ club, and students from the club carry on fundraising and volunteering for the NHS Trust Charity.”

Seven QE students worked with North-East artist Emma Kendall throughout the afternoon to create an original work of art on the wall of the hospital’s MRI department, which will help young patients to relax before scans.

Pat Chambers, Charity Development Manager for the Foundation Trust, said: “Everything happening today shows how valuable working with the community is, because the NHS is always there for us.

“The students from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College represent the next generation who will need healthcare throughout their lives, and here they are contributing to their NHS. They’re going to make such a difference to young people having an MRI. We’re thoroughly delighted with their efforts.”

Students from QE’s Interact community group also presented Sunderland amateur writer Billy Craggs with a printed volume of his ‘Mackem’ poems, which they had produced and illustrated themselves after he donated his collected work to the NHS charity.

Mr Craggs, who became well-known in the Sunderland area for his poems written in the local dialect, said: “This means so much, it has me in tears, and it’s really touched my heart.”

The book will now be mass produced and sold to raise money towards the Excellence in Cancer Care appeal.

NHS staff also held their own 71st birthday celebrations in wards and departments throughout the hospital.

The Foundation Trust Charity is currently seeking new volunteers to join its ranks – anyone interested in becoming a volunteer or in fundraising is asked to get in touch on 01325 743781, or to email cddft.charity@nhs.net.