As Covid cases and deaths continue to rise in the UK, The Duke of Cambridge has spent time talking to NHS staff to thank them for the work once more. Prince William also explained that he reminds his children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis about their dedication and sacrifices ‘every day’.
Prince William has heard about the “horror of the situation” a London hospital is facing due to the dramatic rise in Covid-19 patients, as the effect of the highly-infectious British strain of the virus and Christmas gatherings becomes clear.
The Duke called Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, north-east London, and spoke to doctors and nurses about the major crisis facing the NHS. Just yesterday, the Mayor of London declared a major incident, meaning the emergency services and hospitals cannot guarantee their normal level of response, after the number of Covid patients in the capital’s hospitals rose past 7,000.
In a message of thanks, William told the staff he was telling his own children on a daily basis about the sacrifices medical staff are making to help save lives.
He said: “A huge thank you to all of you for all the hard work, the sleepless nights, the lack of sleep, the stress, the anxiety, the exhaustion, and everything that you’re doing, we are so grateful.
“You’re all in my thoughts and Catherine and I and all the children talk about all of you guys every day, so we’re making sure the children understand the sacrifices that you’re making.”
Dr Carlo Prina, consultant physician and clinical lead for acute ambulatory care, described how the severity of the situation had become clear before Christmas.
He told William: “Things probably hit a major crisis point around the four-day Christmas weekend which is when the already enhanced levels of staffing that we had were no longer adequate and we had to mobilise large amounts of extra doctors and nurses.
“Currently we have Covid patients on our surgical wards, on all of our medical wards, our paediatric ward, so we’ve had to move paediatric patients to another hospital and in our day unit.
“We have had to give treatments that we would normally give on intensive care, something called non-invasive ventilation, an assisted form of breathing not quite being on a ventilator, we are using that on medical wards, and currently using that at about 150% of the level that we used at our peak in April.”
But praising the resilience of staff, Dr Prina added: “That sounds quite bleak I don’t want it all to sound bleak, the horror of the situation, the challenge of the situation has been met by an incredible effort of people to come together.
“Our medical and nursing workforces have never been more stretched but never been more together as a group, so the cohesiveness, the commitment to patient care is a wonder to behold, and it’s a wonderful thing to see.”
Another staff member, chief nurse Catherine Pelley, said that the vaccination programme at the hospital offered hope.
“I have to say I think this week for us starting vaccinating has probably had one of the single most significant impacts on people feeling like there is a future out of this, and the queues out the door downstairs here, where they’ve been vaccinating, have been really hopeful for people,” she commented, but did stress that it had been very difficult for staff.
“We’ve probably all individually and collectively gone through the highs and lows over the past few months and at times it’s felt incredibly overwhelming and at times it’s felt much more as though we’ve got hope, there’s kind of light coming, and that we know we’ll get out of this.
“And we’ve tried to respond with lots of different things from the wobble room, card from the chief exec, chocolates, I make cakes, all those kinds of things, but it has been difficult.”
William also said: “It’s good that you and your team are keeping your spirits high and I always find that having some sort of sense of humour through everything is very important, otherwise we all go mad.”
The future King has championed mental health and wellbeing in the emergency services for a number of years, especially so during 2020, with special insight having worked as an air ambulance pilot for two years, with his full salary going to charity. The Duke of Cambridge has previously spoken of the mental burden responding to traumas at work.
He retired to commit to full-time royal duties in 2015.
Alesia Parker, Matron in Acute Services, told the Duke: “We are supporting each other through this difficult time.
“It does feel worse than the first wave, it is a lot to take on but I think we are doing a good job at it.”
Funds from NHS Charities Together, of which The Duke and Duchess were announced as Patrons during their train tour of the UK, have paid for breakfast boxes sent to hospital staff, and a new break out room for A&E staff to help ease the stress in any way it can and look after team members.