Queen shows off beaming smile as she makes surprise visit to open hospice centre

Her Majesty met staff, volunteers and a patient during her tour of the Thames Hospice in Maidenhead

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The Queen has made a surprise visit to a hospice with Princess Anne to open its new centre.

The monarch travelled the short distance from her Windsor Castle home to Maidenhead to tour the Thames Hospice to meet staff, volunteers and a patient.

For more than 30 years the hospice has been providing palliative and end-of-life care and support to people across East Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire.

Its services are free for those who need care, and more than 50 percent of the £13million annual running costs come from charitable support.

The Queen during her visit to the Thames Hospice
The Queen during her visit to the Thames Hospice
Her Majesty met staff, volunteers and a patient during her tour
Her Majesty met staff, volunteers and a patient during her tour

On Tuesday, the Queen celebrated the achievements of the NHS across the decades by awarding the institution the George Cross during a ceremony she hosted at Windsor.

The 96-year-old head of state was joined by Prince Charles for the event, where health leaders from the four home nations were each awarded the medal.

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.