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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

George Cross presented to the NHS by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth

The Queen, accompanied by The Prince of Wales, presented the George Cross to representatives of the National Health Service at Windsor Castle on Tuesday, July 12.

Dundrum woman, Sister Joanna Sloane, received the prestigious award on behalf of the NHS in Northern Ireland at the ceremony. Joanna, who works in the Royal Victoria Hospital, was the first person in the province to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccination on 8 December 2020, and headed up the vaccine rollout in the Belfast Trust area.

The award recognises staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations.

The George Cross was instituted by King George VI on 24th September 1940, during the height of the Blitz, to recognise, “acts of the greatest heroism or the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger.”

This is only the second time during The Queen’s 70-year reign that the award has been presented collectively to an organisation or group of people (Her Majesty presented the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1999).

In a poignant handwritten letter in July 2021, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 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. 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. Elizabeth R.”

Speaking at the time when the special award was revealed, Minister Swann stated:

“This is a very special and poignant day. The George Cross is the highest civilian gallantry award and has only been bestowed collectively twice before. It recognises decades of dedicated service by the National Health Services, including the courageous work by staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is for everyone working across Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care system at all levels. We will be forever indebted to them - for their commitment, compassion and expertise.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge faced by the health service since its inception. The response from our health and care staff has been both inspirational and humbling. They are indeed the best of us.

“It is particularly fitting that the award is announced as the UK marks the 73rd birthday of the NHS. I am in no doubt that the National Health Service is one of society’s finest achievements. Her Majesty’s announcement reflects the special place it has in our hearts.”


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