A GESTURE of support from a cruise firm lit up the city before hundreds of households were expected to show their gratitude to the NHS.

In a practice run ahead of the nationwide "clap for the NHS" at 8pm last night, the ship was lit up along its side with a hashtag "heart NHS" message in Southampton.

It was first noticed by residents from their homes as P&O Cruises Britannia Twin Funnels on Wednesday night to thank the efforts of hospital staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

President of the cruise firm Paul Ludlow shared his support for the trial run on social media.

He tweeted: "@pandocruises #Britannia lights up in support of tomorrow’s #NHS illuminations #ProudToSupport."

Last night, people were asked to clap from 8pm, from their window, garden, local park or outside their front doors.

The Clap for Carers idea went hand in hand with the #lightitblue campaign as a message of thanks to our healthcare heroes, putting their lives on the line for us.

Landmarks, historic buildings and major sporting and entertainment venues across the country were illuminated blue to shine a light on the importance of the NHS and the courageous efforts of everyone involved in our healthcare system.

The campaign also invited Britons to join in at home by creating blue-themed images and videos and sharing them online with #makeitblue.