The National Health Services of the United Kingdom have been awarded the George Cross by Her Majesty The Queen. The award comes in recognition of 73 years of dedicated service, including for the courageous efforts of healthcare workers across the country battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
The George Cross – the highest civilian gallantry award, equivalent to the Victoria Cross – has only been bestowed collectively twice before, and today marks the second time it has been awarded collectively by Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen wrote:
Welcoming the “unprecedented” honour, bestowed collectively for only the third time, NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said that the “dark times” of the coronavirus pandemic had brought out “the best” in health and care staff.
And the NHS chief paid tribute to all those in the NHS and beyond who had played their part in responding to the “greatest challenge this country has faced since the Second World War”.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson added:
The George Cross was first bestowed collectively to the people of Malta on 15 April 1942 by King George VI and was granted to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (the fore-runner of the Police Service of Northern Ireland) on 23 November 1999.
The George Cross is the UK’s highest civilian gallantry award, equivalent to the military Victoria Cross. It sits at the top of the UK’s honours system, jointly with the Victoria Cross. It is given for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger. The George Cross was instituted in 1940.