The courage and commitment of NHS staff have been recognised with the highest civilian gallantry award, as Michelle Higgs highlights
On 5 July 2021, The Queen awarded the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom. The date was significant, it being the 73rd anniversary of the NHS.
In a handwritten letter, the Queen said that staff had worked ‘with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service’ for more than 70 years, especially in recent times. The award recognises ‘all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations.’
It is only the third time the George Cross has been awarded collectively. The first was in 1942 to the people of Malta for their courage during constant attacks, day and night, by the enemy during the Second World War; and the second was in 1999 to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland.
What is the George Cross?
The award was instituted in 1940 by the Queen’s father, King George VI, during the Blitz, a time when Nazi Germany relentlessly bombed the UK during an eight-month campaign. The George Cross is the highest civilian gallantry award and it was designed to be the equivalent of the Victoria Cross, which is bestowed on military personnel for acts of gallantry under enemy fire.
The George Cross was originally awarded to civilians for ‘acts of the greatest heroism or the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger.’ The first recipient was Thomas Hopper Alderson, an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) warden in Bridlington, who, in spite of extreme danger, rescued numerous people trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings.
The courage of NHS staff
During the COVID-19 pandemic, staff in the NHS have been on the frontline for us, caring for our friends and families, day in, day out. While we stayed home, they saved countless lives and kept the NHS going in the face of extreme pressure and adversity. Sadly, almost 1,000 NHS staff and care workers lost their lives to the virus.
80% of people believe pharmacies are playing an essential role in the COVID19 crisis
Pharmacies and the NHS
Your local pharmacy is a proud part of the NHS family, and pharmacists and pharmacy staff are among those recognised for their service by the Queen.
Community pharmacies stayed open throughout the pandemic to support patients and the NHS, providing vital face-to-face care when other parts of the health service were forced to go behind closed doors.
Pharmacies are the face of the NHS on the high street and they have close contact with other healthcare providers within the NHS.
The public strongly supports a greater role for pharmacies within the NHS post-COVID19. Polling carried out by the National Pharmacy Association reveals: