The Queen has written a personal and rare handwritten message as she awarded the George Cross to the NHS.
In her message, on Windsor Castle-headed paper, Her Majesty wrote: "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.
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"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 Queen's handwritten note to the NHS
The award comes on the 73rd anniversary of the NHS's foundation.
The George Cross was instituted by King George VI on 24 September 1940 during the height of the Blitz, and 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.
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Prince William attended a thanksgiving service to mark the NHS' anniversary
On Monday, the Duke of Cambridge also attended a service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral, before hosting a Big Tea for NHS staff at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the NHS. Prince William's wife Kate was forced to miss the event as she is self-isolating at home after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, on the inaugural Thank You Day on Sunday, the Prince of Wales thanked NHS staff and volunteers across the country for their dedication, "sheer resilience and indomitable spirit".
Clarence House also shared a new image of the Duchess of Cornwall toasting a cheers to volunteers, with the caption: "On this very special #ThankYouDay, I wanted to say a heartfelt 'Cheers' to every single one of this country's wonderful volunteers, who have made such an enormous difference to us all over the past year."
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