The Queen, accompanied by The Prince of Wales, presented the NHS with the George Cross today, to mark its decades of achievements, including the ‘amazing’ COVID-19 vaccine.
The Monarch and heir were joined by health leaders from the four British nations, who were each awarded the medal. The ceremony took place at Windsor Castle, her permanent residence since the beginning of the pandemic.
Recipients included May Parsons, the nurse who delivered the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials on 8th December 2020.
The nurse told The Queen: “We’re terribly, terribly proud of the vaccination roll-out, it was so successful.’ She replied: ‘Yes it was amazing.”
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard highlighted the tens of millions who have been jabbed, the 96-year-old Monarch said it was ‘tremendous’.
The Queen asked: “And what are you going to do with it?’ in regards to the medal.
She was told by NHS England chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, it would go on tour of the NHS before being found a permanent home.
The Queen touched the cushion in a gesture to symbolise its presentation.
The Queen seemed unaffected by her mobility issues as she took part in today’s ceremony. In the recent months, she has been struggling, forcing her to miss key events such as the State Opening of Parliament and Royal Ascot.
However, she attended several engagements for Holyrood Week, being well enough to attend the Ceremony of the Keys at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and the Act of Loyalty Parade a few days later. The Queen also attended the Reddendo parade, where she was presented with a Reddendo, in the form of a striking glass sculpture.
These were her first public appearance since the Platinum Jubilee weekend.
The Queen had announced the NHS would be receiving the George Cross last July in a personal, handwritten message. The message read: “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 was created by George VI on 24th September 1940, during the height of the Blitz. It recognised the actions by civilians and military personnel not on the battlefield.
In 1942, the George Cross was conferred on Malta by the King, in recognition of the fortitude displayed by the island’s inhabitants during sustained and devastating enemy bombardments of the Second World War.
Today’s ceremony marks the second time during The Queen’s 70-year reign that the award has been presented collectively to an organisation or group of people. In 1999, The Queen awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, in recognition of the collective and sustained bravery of the Force during the Troubles, including the families of those serving.