NHS workers who helped the service to be awarded the prestigious George Cross will be able to get a glimpse of the medal as it “tours” the nation.
The award was bestowed upon the NHS for the work staff performed during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout its history.
The gallantry medal will first be put on display at the Science Museum in London before being shown in Manchester, Bradford and a location in the South West which has yet to be determined.
Health service leaders from across the four nations attended the ceremony along with May Parsons, who delivered the first Covid-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial.
When the award was first announced in 2021, the Queen praised the “courage, compassion and dedication” of staff during the pandemic.
The George Cross was instituted by her father George VI in September 1940 at 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 medal, which is currently being kept at Windsor Castle, will tour the country from July – which is when the NHS will celebrate its 75th anniversary.
From Thursday July 6, the medal will be on display at the Science Museum in London as a temporary addition to Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries.
In February 2024, it will move to the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and in July next year it will be placed in the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.
NHS officials said the cross will be placed at a location to be confirmed in the South West in 2025.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, said: “For 75 years, NHS staff have served our country – this year’s anniversary is an opportunity to reiterate our thanks to them, as well as to celebrate the history and achievements of the NHS, from the first organ transplants through to mass vaccination programmes which have saved thousands of lives.
“We were honoured to receive the George Cross from the late Queen on behalf of the NHS and I am delighted that – through our partnership with the Science Museum Group – NHS staff, volunteers and local communities will get to see the medal up close.”
Ms Parsons added: “I was humbled and honoured to receive the George Cross, alongside Amanda, on behalf of the NHS and I am delighted it will be going on a tour during the NHS’s 75th year for staff, volunteers and the public to see.
“The George Cross is a truly fitting tribute to thousands of NHS staff and volunteers who went above and beyond during the pandemic and continue to do so every day.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “The George Cross medal is a fitting tribute to the dedication and hard work of NHS staff across the country.
“I’m pleased this medal will be displayed for the public to see, which exemplifies the very best of the National Health Service.”
The George Cross has only been given to an organisation, rather than an individual, on three occasions.
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.