The Queen is hoping to personally present the George Cross to the NHS next week.
Accompanied by the Prince of Wales, the monarch will welcome the chief executives of the National Health Services of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and a frontline worker from each of the home nations to Windsor Castle on July 12.
Buckingham Palace said the monarch, who has ongoing mobility problems, is planning to attend the audience, but a final decision will be made on the day.
The 96-year-old head of state, joined by Charles, is set to present the award and meet the key workers.
The announcement of the audience coincided with the 74th anniversary of the NHS’s foundation.
The Queen awarded the NHS the prestigious bravery award exactly a year ago for its “courage, compassion and dedication” during the pandemic and throughout the 70-plus years since its foundation.
The George Cross was instituted by her father George VI in September 1940 during the height of the Blitz.
It is granted in recognition of “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger” and recognises actions by civilians and military personnel not in the face of the enemy.
The award of the George Cross by the Queen is made on the advice of the George Cross Committee and the Prime Minister, and this marks only the third occasion on which it has been awarded to a collective body, country or organisation, rather than an individual.
In her message, on Windsor Castle-headed paper last July on the 73rd anniversary of the NHS’s foundation, 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.
“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.”
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said she was honoured to attend on behalf of NHS workers.
“Under the most difficult of circumstances during the pandemic, our staff responded magnificently,” she said.
They cared for more than 750,000 people with Covid-19 in hospitals and many more in the community, and designed and delivered the biggest and most successful NHS vaccination programme in history, saving hundreds of thousands of lives, she added.
Ms Pritchard said: “Today, on the NHS’s birthday, we are marking their extraordinary efforts in the face of adversity but also their dedication over the last 74 years.
“The George Cross is for everyone working in every part of the NHS – our nurses, doctors, cleaners, paramedics, porters, therapists – and the entire team who make the NHS what it is today for millions of people and their families.”
In 1942, the George Cross was conferred on Malta by George VI, in recognition of the fortitude displayed by the island’s inhabitants during enemy bombardments in the Second World War.
And in 1999, the Queen awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland, in recognition of the force’s bravery, including the families of those serving.
The most recent recipient of the George Cross is Dominic Troulan, a retired British Army officer and former Royal Marine.
Mr Troulan was awarded the George Cross in June 2017 for his actions during the 2013 Westgate shopping centre attack in Nairobi, Kenya.
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