But she said the NHS was now entering a “new, but no less challenging phase” in responding to the Covid-19 crisis.
“This means we will need the same determination, team-work and innovation that have served us so well over the last 18 months. Amid these pressures, I know colleagues share my determination to deliver the long term improvements in treatment and care which, coupled with a renewed focus on prevention, will enable many more people to live longer and more fulfilling lives.”
She added: “The NHS must continue to innovate and work in new ways to deliver the care that patients need. We must harness this power to ensure everyone can access the care they need, prevent illness and provide better treatment, and deliver on our long term ambitions to tackle major killers like cancer and stroke, saving many more lives.”
Throughout the pandemic hospitals have seen staffing levels stretched to dangerous ratios with staff redeployed to makeshift intensive care wards set up in operating theatres and other spaces.
Ms Pritchard said the pandemic had required staff to “make considerable personal sacrifice – working beyond your normal hours for long stretches, taking on new and difficult roles at real speed and having to cope with deeply distressing circumstances, including losing valued colleagues.
“Supporting the health and wellbeing of all our NHS staff will continue to be central to our future strategy and recovery. I do not underestimate the scale of the task we face and while I am realistic, I am also optimistic.”