Queen will be a 'very hard act to follow' says royal expert
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The Queen handed out the prestigious award on the 73rd anniversary of the NHS Foundation, which falls on Monday, July 5. In a heartfelt handwritten message, the 95-year-old expressed her gratitude to NHS services across the UK.
The longest-reigning monarch said the NHS, founded in 1948, has “supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication”.
In a statement, 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.”
The George Cross gallantry award was created by the Queen’s father, King George VI, in September 1940 during the height of the Blitz.
The medal of honour is granted in recognition of “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger”.
The award of the George Cross by the Queen is made on the advice of the George Cross Committee and the Prime Minister.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “This unprecedented award rightly recognises the skill and compassion and the fortitude of staff right across the National Health Service.
“The nurses, the paramedics, the doctors, the cleaners, the therapists, the entire team, who under the most demanding of circumstances have responded to the worst pandemic in a century and the greatest challenge this country has faced since the Second World War.
“Out of those dark times have come the best of what it means to be a carer and a health professional.
“In the face of adversity we have seen extraordinary team work, not just across the NHS but involving hundreds of thousands of volunteers, millions of carers, key workers and the British public who have played an indispensable role in helping the health service to look after many hundreds of thousands of seriously ill patients with coronavirus.
“And so, as we congratulate staff across the health service on this award, we recognise that completing the NHS Covid vaccination programme which is in the final stages is now the surest way out of this pandemic and provides a sense of hope.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid added: “Those working in the NHS have done an incredible job caring for so many during this awful pandemic.
“The George Cross is the highest possible honour a civilian can achieve and I want to pay tribute to everyone across the NHS for their heroism and sacrifice.”
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The NHS has become only the third collective body, country or organisation to be awarded the George Cross.
The George Cross was conferred on Malta in 1942, recognition of the fortitude displayed by the island’s inhabitants during enemy bombardments in World War Two.
The Queen awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland in 1999, in recognition of the force’s bravery, including the families of those serving.
The most recent individual recipient of the George Cross was Dominic Troulan, a retired British Army officer and former Royal Marine.
Mr Troulan was awarded the George Cross in June 2017 for his actions during the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya.
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