“I would not be doing the job I am doing today without that support,” the Prime Minister said.
Mrs May expressed her personal thanks to healthcare workers in a speech in London confirming her promise of an extra £20billion for the NHS over the next five years.
The cash injection – to be funded by both the “Brexit dividend” from leaving the EU and tax rises – is being announced to mark the 70th anniversary of the service next month.
NHS England will get an extra £394million a week by 2023/24 in real terms, far more than the £350million a week demanded by the Leave campaign in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum.
In cash terms including the effects of inflation, the sum will reach an extra £600million a week.
However, Theresa May also warned NHS waste and bureaucracy must be cut to ensure the extra cash is not squandered.
Speaking of her own experience of public healthcare, she said: “From life-saving treatment to managing a life-changing condition, whoever we are, whatever our means, we know the NHS is there for us when we need it.
“It was there for me when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I will never forget the support, not just of my GP and consultants, but also the clinical nurse specialists attached to my local hospital.”
She recalled witnessing the NHS response to the suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena that killed 22 victims and injured hundreds just over a year ago.
She said: “There, in the face of the very worst that humanity can do, I witnessed firsthand, the very best. In every instance, I was struck not only by the medical expertise of the staff, but the compassion with which people were treated. This is our National Health Service.”
She is to ask NHS chiefs to draw up a 10-year plan to include improving access to mental health services and cutting waste, adding: “This must be a plan that ensures every penny’s well spent.”
On BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, she confirmed part of the cash would come from cancelling Britain’s annual multi-billion contributions to Brussels after the country leaves the EU next March.
She said: “Some people may remember seeing a figure on the side of a bus a while back of £350million a week in cash.
“I can tell you that what I’m announcing will mean that in 2023-24 there will be about £600million a week, more in cash, going into the NHS. That will be through the Brexit dividend.”
But in a signal of tax rises, she also said the UK had to contribute more to the health budget.
Last night Brexit-backing Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Twitter: “Fantastic news on NHS funding – a down payment on the cash we will soon get back from our EU payments.”
Janet Davies, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The extra money should enable trusts to invest more in staff and reverse some of the cuts in patient care nurses are reporting to us.”
But Tory MP and Commons Health Committee chairman Sarah Wollaston, who voted to remain in the EU, said: “The Brexit dividend tosh was expected but treats the public as fools.”
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “It falls far short of the four per cent experts say NHS needs.”