The Queen recognises the ‘courage and dedication’ of NHS staff in her letter awarding the George Cross

The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the NHS on its 73rd anniversary

In a personal message, the Queen said NHS staff across the UK had worked “with courage, compassion and dedication” for more than 70 years.

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the award recognised the “skill and fortitude” of staff.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are hosting a Buckingham Palace tea later to thank NHS workers.

The George Cross, instituted by King George VI in 1940 during the height of the Blitz in World War Two, is awarded for “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger”.

In her handwritten message, the Queen 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.

“Collectively, over more than seven decades, they have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service.

“You have the enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation of us all.”