As the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, I wanted to take the opportunity to wish NHS staff heartfelt Eid greetings, and to celebrate the enormous contribution of our Muslim colleagues.

Ramadan is a wonderful time of the year when Muslims take time to re-set the balance of their lives. Although Ramadan celebrations were different this year, I know that Muslim colleagues still found ways to come together and celebrate virtually, and will have spent the month helping others with their usual devotion and community spirit.

This Ramadan saw the first ever Downing Street Iftar hosted by a British Prime Minister and I was honoured to be personally invited to a series of Virtual Iftars, and to share this special time with the community.

Celebration of Eid is celebration of our place in our communities. Community spirit is so important, and I’m determined to make the NHS a diverse, open and brilliant place for everyone to work, where everyone is valued for the contribution they make, and supported to achieve their potential.

I wanted to use this moment to extend my gratitude to the around 46,000 Muslim colleagues who are part of our NHS. Whether working on busy ICUs or delivering our fantastic vaccination programme, you have given so much and we are all in your debt. You help make our NHS the pride of our nation that it is. I’ve been moved by your service and sacrifice, especially this last year.

Vaccines are the best way to protect people from Coronavirus, and are already saving thousands of lives. We want to make sure everybody can get a vaccine when it’s their turn, and I’m so grateful to colleagues at NHS vaccination sites who extended their opening hours so that Muslims could find convenient slots during Ramadan, and receive the jab after eating if they wished.

I’m also grateful to everyone who has helped us to spread the word that this vaccine is effective, and will help keep us and our loved ones safe.

Vaccination will pave the way back to normal life, and at precious milestones like Eid we must focus on the joy we will all feel when we have beaten the pandemic and can come together in our communities again.

As the Prophet said, ‘the one who serves people is the best of them’ – it is in that spirit that I salute all NHS Muslim staff and thank you for your exemplary service at the frontline of our fight against the pandemic. God bless you and keep you safe. Eid Mubarak.

Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care