THE founder of a Leeds charity which has raised millions to help heart patients has been given a national honour.
Alec Bloom, former president of the Heartbeat Appeal, was awarded the prestigious Order of Mercy medal in a special ceremony in London.
He was one of only 35 recipients of this year's medal, which is presented by the League of Mercy to honour the work of volunteers across the UK.
Sir Robert Balchin, president of the League of Mercy, said: "Alec has done extraordinary work for the welfare of others. He is a marvellous example of someone who has given wonderful service to his community and healthcare.
"We were delighted to be able to make this well-deserved award."
Mr Bloom, of Shadwell, Leeds, started the Heartbeat Appeal 18 years ago following his own open heart surgery.
Since then it has raised more than 2.5m to help hospitals across Yorkshire fight heart disease.
In 2001, the YEP teamed up with the Heartbeat Appeal to raise 150,000 for a specialist heart scanner for Leeds General Infirmary.
Affectionately known as Mr Heartbeat, Mr Bloom was awarded the MBE in 2003.
This latest honour comes after he stepped down as president of the charity following a second open-heart operation.
He is now Honorary Life Patron of the Heartbeat Appeal.
Mr Bloom said: "Since founding the charity after my first heart operation, I have been fortunate to meet many wonderful people who have helped the Heartbeat Appeal achieve so much.
"Being honoured by the League of Mercy fills me with great pride and recognises the work of everybody who has contributed to the charity's success."
As well as providing equipment for hospitals, the Heartbeat Appeal also provides portable defibrillators at locations across the region.
Its most recent project was the development of a 100,000 cardiac training suite at Leeds General Infirmary to equip the doctors and nurses of tomorrow with the latest skills to fight heart disease.
The charity operates on a totally voluntary basis and does not have any paid staff.
The League of Mercy was originally founded in 1899 to encourage and recognise voluntary work in hospitals and the community, but gradually wound down after the launch of the NHS in 1948.
It was refounded as a registered charity in 1999 and now continues the work of the original founder – the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.