Prince Charles seemed in high spirits last night, as he hosted a reception for NHS nurses at Buckingham Palace, joined by The Countess of Wessex. The Prince of Wales used the opportunity to praise the “unsung and unseen” dedication of Britain’s nurses. Charles was hosting the event on behalf of The Queen.
Organisations represented at the event included the Royal College of Nursing, The Queen’s Nursing Institute and the Florence Nightingale Foundation, as well as a cross-section of the nursing community. This included community nurses, specialist nurses eg from care homes, plus those in the armed forces and prison service.
As he met with around 350 nurses, The Prince of Wales said that he was “astounded” by the stories of “harrowing incidents” and of how well the nurses responded.
Charles, 69, also recalled a time when he was rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital with a “rapidly expanding appendix.” His Royal Highness remarked, “I have never forgotten how wonderfully I was looked after by the nurses there.
“In fact, when I went to go back home to Windsor Castle, I didn’t want to leave!”
Melanie Davies, who won the Royal College of Nursing’s 2017 Nurse of the Year award, was also in attendance. She spoke of how ‘nice’ it was for nursing to be ‘acknowledged’:”I just can’t believe it. I’m speechless. It is just such a privilege to be here. Nursing is always in the headlines for the pay, or lack of, so it’s just nice to be acknowledged.”
The Prince also met Zoe Butler, the recipient of the Student Nurse of the Year award 2017, and spoke of the difficulty in recruiting young people to the profession. Ms Butler said, “It is really nice they are bringing the younger generation into the event tonight, especially with the recruitment issues nursing is facing.
“It is humbling to be here – and quite bizarre. I have only been a nurse for six months, so to be asked to come to the palace was amazing,” she said.
The heir to the throne has been a long time advocate of nursing and its importance, and is patron of a number of organisations including Macmillan Cancer Care and Marie Curie. In February, his daughter-in-law, The Duchess of Cambridge, helped launch a new global initiative to raise the profile and status of the nursing profession.
Sophie, meanwhile, is patron of the Nursing Memorial Appeal and Colonel-in-Chief of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, hence her presence at the reception.
Coincidentally, both Prince Charles and the National Health Service will turn 70 this year.
Josie Barcial, a care home nurse from Oxfordshire, said that seeing Buckingham Palace was one of the main reasons she wanted to move to the UK in the first place: “When I first wanted to come to the UK to be a nurse, the interviewer asked me why I wanted to come to this country and work.
“I told him it was because I wanted to see Buckingham Palace! And here I am this evening. I can’t quite believe it. My career gave me my biggest wish. I’m so delighted.”
On Tuesday, The Countess of Wessex visited the Radiology Department of Musgrove Park Hospital, where she learnt about the importance of MRI technology to the medical profession, and praised the work of NHS staff.