MAYOR of the West Midlands Andy Street says the heroics of NHS heroes battling coronavirus should be recognised, by awarding the health service the George Cross.
Mr Street says the medal, which was created during World War Two to recognise acts of bravery by civilians, would provide ‘appropriate recognition’ for NHS heroes.
The idea of awarding the George Cross to the NHS was first suggested by medal expert Lord Ashcroft, and now Mr Street has thrown his weight behind the campaign.
“May 8th is the 75th anniversary of VE Day,” Mr Street said, “and throughout the coronavirus crisis there have been lots of comparisons made between our situation today and life during wartime.
“We speak of our health staff being on the frontline, and efforts to build ventilators evoke memories of Dunkirk. The work of volunteers invokes the blitz spirit.
“It was during World War Two that the George Cross was created to reflect the courage of those civilians who showed extraordinary bravery in the face of danger.
“We are seeing that courage again today. I believe that the campaign for our NHS to receive the George Cross, inspired by Lord Ashcroft, is an appropriate recognition for their incredible efforts.”
Mr Street said that weekly doorstep celebrations of the NHS – where millions of people applaud to show their support – are proof of the debt of gratitude felt by the nation.
“The NHS, from the doctors and nurses on the wards, to the ambulance crews and paramedics, and all support staff, represents the very best of our society,” he said.
“And it is the NHS staff, putting themselves at risk daily, who have become our modern heroes and heroines. That is why I believe the George Cross is an appropriate acknowledgment of the bravery we are seeing.
“This is not a gimmick and is more than mere pomp and circumstance. These awards exist to allow us, as a society, to recognise those who have stepped forward in a time of need.”
Mr Street, who heads up the West Midlands Combined Authority, said the medal had been awarded collectively before, during World War Two.
“In 1942 The George Cross was awarded to the island of Malta by King George, so as to “bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people” during the great siege they underwent in the early part of the Second World War,” he said.
“Six years after Malta received the George Cross, the NHS was founded. After seven decades of devoted service to the British people, NHS staff now find themselves under siege too, from coronavirus. There is no doubt in my mind that this is their finest hour.
“It is time to reflect the unique contribution to our society of the NHS, and the gallantry shown by its staff. The National Health Service has earned the George Cross.”