Today saw Prince William head to King’s Lynn to meet staff at the local ambulance station, as members of the Royal Family start back to work in a new, pandemic normal.
The Duke of Cambridge met those manning ambulances in the Norfolk area at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. While he joked he was looking forward to the pubs opening again, he was concerned about mental health as well as waistlines after three months indoors!
The future King had to take a temperature test (he passed) and wash his hands before he was allowed to approach the frontline workers, keeping the 2-metre distance.
William noted he was still not used to refrain from hand-shaking, which is a mainstay of royal life. “I’m still fighting the urge to shake hands. I’m keeping my hands by my side.”
HIs father, Prince Charles, has been seen adopting the ‘namaste’ hand gesture and slight bow, to get around this whilst still offering some form of greeting.
The ambulance teams told the Duke how they had been deep cleaning their vehicle every 24 hours since the pandemic began.
He was at the station to thank staff from the East of England Ambulance Service Trust for their work and dedication responding to Coronavirus.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children have spent lockdown at their Anmer Hall home, on The Queen’s Sandringham estate. The couple have been homeschooling Prince George and Princess Charlotte – even through the Easter break! – as well as helping out the local vulnerable community with food parcels.
Some members of the ambulance crew had been away from their families for three months to keep them safe, it was revealed.
He thanked paramedics working away from their families for their “sacrifices”.
The station appealed to the area for volunteers to assist them and received a ‘huge response’, Carl Smith, a critical care paramedic, explained: “The call to arms has been fantastic.”
Prince William praised the staff and their work, asking: “How was it for dealing with the unknown? Most jobs you have experienced and done for a long time but this was completely new for the NHS.”
They also told the royal visitor that they had enough PPE during the crisis, which is something not all frontline medical teams did, but explained that masks could be a “barrier” to treating patients who were scared.
“It was a really difficult time. We were the first people (on the scene) and they were frightened and a lot of them were frail,” Smith said of attending elderly and often distressed patients at home. “It was upsetting to see they look on their faces when we had the PPE on.”
The Duke of Cambridge turned conversation to mental health, something that he is acutely aware of, having worked as an air ambulance pilot in the area, attending the worst types of emergencies. He has admitted in the past that it was difficult to not take work home with him, during his time in the role.
William said: “I imagine there’s going to be a big impact in terms of mental health for frontline workers. A statistic I read the other day was that male paramedics were 75% higher risk of severe mental health issues.”
William and Kate, who champion mental health, have launched the ‘Our Frontline’ initiative to support mental health of frontline workers like medical staff during the pandemic.
Supported by The Royal Foundation, Our Frontline is run in partnership with Mind, Samaritans, Hospice UK and Shout85258. We found out last week that the Duke is working on the text platform as a counsellor.
“How do we get guys to talk about issues?” he asked.
Staff told the Royal that managers had all been given three hours ‘Spot The Signs’ training for staff, to help notice the symptoms of poor mental health.
“You are the first people on the scene, so by osmosis you take in emotions around you – it’s how best you make sure the training is there from the beginning.”
The Duke of Cambridge told staff he enjoyed the weekly Clap For Carers initiative during the crisis, which took place on Thursday nights at 8pm. Brits stood on their front doorsteps or leant out of windows to applaud, cheer, and make noise for the NHS staff saving lives.
He said: “It was powerful, wasn’t it?”
And added: “Everyone appreciates the NHS. Countries around the world envy what we have.”
But joked with the team, saying: “I’m worried about the waistline of the nation as well with all the chocolate and cakes. I’ve done a lot of baking at home. Chocolate goes down very well.”