Queen awards George Cross to NHS to mark 70 years of public service


The Queen has awarded the George Cross, the UK’s highest award for gallantry and heroism, to the NHS to mark its public service over seven decades, Buckingham Palace has announced.

The NHS marks its 73rd birthday on Monday following a year of unprecedented challenges. It is only the third time the award has been given to a collective body, country or organisation rather than an individual since it was instituted by the Queen’s father, George VI, at the height of the blitz in 1940.

In a handwritten personal message, the Queen said: “It is with great pleasure, on behalf of a grateful nation, that I award the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom.

“This award recognises all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations. Over more than seven decades, and especially in recent times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service.
“You have our enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation. Elizabeth R.”

The George Cross is granted in recognition of “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger”. It recognises actions by civilians and military personnel not in the face of the enemy. It is awarded by the Queen on the advice of the George Cross committee and the prime minister.

It was conferred on Malta in 1942 in recognition of the fortitude displayed by islanders during sustained and devastating enemy bombardments in the second world war. In 1999 it was awarded to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in recognition of more than 30 years of “the collective and sustained bravery of the force, including families of those serving”.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the NHS at a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Monday before hosting a celebration tea at Buckingham Palace. The service will honour the NHS’s contribution to the country during Covid-19, reflecting on the work and achievement of health staff, volunteers and carers.

At the NHS Big Tea in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, the couple will meet staff ranging from respiratory ward nurses, counsellors and care workers to those in non-clinical roles, including catering managers and housekeeping coordinators.


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