Boris Johnson has said there is “no question” that the NHS saved his life after he was discharged from hospital.
In a video message posted to his Twitter account after his seven-night hospital stay, Mr Johnson said: “I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life, no question.
“It’s hard to find the words to express my debt.”
The prime minister paid tribute to the “personal courage” of doctors, nurses, cleaners, cooks and all other healthcare workers at St Thomas’ and named individual staff who had steered him away from danger over the past week.
He paid particular thanks to two nurses – Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal – who “stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way”.
“The reason in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed,” Mr Johnson said.
The prime minister also thanked Britons for the “sacrifice” they had made on a sunny Easter weekend by complying with his government’s lockdown measures.
He said the public had “formed a human shield” around the NHS.
“We understood and we decided that if together we could keep our NHS safe, if we could stop our NHS from being overwhelmed, then we could not be beaten,” the prime minister added.
“And this country would rise together and overcome this challenge, as we have overcome so many challenges in the past.”
I cannot thank our magnificent NHS enough. The staff at St Thomas’ Hospital have been incredible. I will never, ever be able to repay you and I will never stop thanking you. 🌈
— Carrie Symonds (@carriesymonds) April 12, 2020
Paying tribute to the “care and thought and precision” of all NHS workers across the country, Mr Johnson said this is “why we will defeat this coronavirus and defeat it together”.
“We will win because our NHS is the beating heart of this country. It is the best of this country. It is unconquerable. It is powered by love,” he added.
Mr Johnson’s video message was filmed in Downing Street, where he briefly returned to collect some belongings.
The prime minister will now recuperate at Chequers, his official country retreat in Buckinghamshire, where he is expected to be joined by his pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds.
Ms Symonds said she would “never, ever be able to repay” the NHS staff who treated him, adding: “I will never stop thanking you.”
“There were times last week that were very dark indeed,” she continued.
“My heart goes out to all those in similar situations, worried sick about their loved ones.
“Thank you also to everyone who sent such kind messages of support. Today I’m feeling incredibly lucky.”
The prime minister’s father, Stanley Johnson – who previously said his son “almost took one for the team” – told Sky News: “It’s marvellous news, I’m thrilled and delighted.”
The prime minister was first admitted to hospital last Sunday night for tests.
Up until his admission to hospital, Mr Johnson had been self-isolating in 11 Downing Street and conducting meetings remotely.
He was moved into intensive care at St Thomas’ when his health deteriorated and he had difficulty breathing on Monday afternoon.
Mr Johnson remained in critical care until Thursday, during which time he was supported with oxygen, but did not require the use of a ventilator.
He then spent a further three nights on a low-dependency ward at St Thomas’, towards the end of which he was said to be taking “short walks” and “playing games and watching films”.
In his absence, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been deputising for Mr Johnson – an arrangement that is likely to continue after the prime minister was advised not to make an immediate return to work.
Ms Symonds, who works for an ocean conservation charity, sent Mr Johnson letters and baby scans to lift his spirits during his time in intensive care.
She has also been ill with coronavirus symptoms in recent weeks, but has not been tested for the virus.
Dr Ian Abbs, chief executive at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS trust, said: “I am incredibly proud of the staff who have cared for the prime minister and pleased that he is now able to continue his recovery at home.
“I want to pay tribute to the teams whose dedication, skill and compassion made this possible.”
He added: “While it is right that we celebrate this good news, our thoughts turn immediately to those who still need our help at this time.
“On behalf of everyone at Guy’s and St Thomas’, I’d ask that people stay home to help us save lives and protect the NHS.”