Coronavirus: William and Kate tell NHS 'the whole country is proud of you'

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
Amged El-Hawrani, the first frontline NHS hospital worker to die after testing positive for coronavirus. (University Hospitals Derby/Press Association)

Prince William and Kate told colleagues of the first medic to die from coronavirus how proud they and the whole country are of the NHS as they continue to battle the spread of the deadly disease.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge called staff at Queen’s Hospital Burton on Wednesday, the hospital where Amged El-Hawrani worked as an ear, nose and throat specialist.

The 55-year-old contracted COVID-19 and died at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. He was the first medic to die from the illness.

In a call from their home in Norfolk, where they and their three children are staying, the duke said: “We’d just like to say from the two of us how proud we are of all of you, and how amazingly you are all doing under extreme circumstances.”

William, 37, went on to say: “I know all of you see this as your job and that you get on with it, but this is a different level and you are doing an incredible job.

“The whole country is proud of you so thank you for everything you’re doing and all the hours you are putting in.”

Read more: The five NHS workers killed by coronavirus

Staff taking part included Gavin Boyle, chief executive of University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust, and six staff from Queen’s Hospital Burton, including Mr Thompson and nurses of various grades who working in departments ranging from intensive care to emergency.

Emily Johnson, a hospital spokeswoman who listened in on the 25 minute conversation, said it had boosted morale, adding: “It genuinely felt like they shared in our grief.”

Alice Bloxham, a sister in the hospital’s Covid-19 cohort ward, said of the call: “This has been a difficult time for all the patients we care for and for the staff working in a very different environment. It was a pleasure to talk to the duke and duchess and to be able to explain some of the challenges we face for our patients.”

(left to right) Dr James Crampton, Queen's Hospital Medical Director, Gavin Boyle, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust, Richard Welch, ITU staff nurse, Mr Adrian Thompson, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Consultant, Brogan Bishop, newly qualified staff nurse in the Emergency Department, Alice Bloxham, Sister on Ward 4, Covid-19 cohort ward, Chelsey Stephens, Staff nurse in Paediatrics. (Queen's hospital/Press Association)

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Accident and emergency nurse Brogan Bishop, who only qualified two months ago, was jumping up and down with excitement after speaking to the royal couple.

“We’ve been really busy. It’s stressful,” she said, before adding: “I can’t wait to go back and tell my colleagues how wonderful they think we are.”

William and Kate also rang staff at University Hospital Monklands in North Lanarkshire and Kate urged them to look after themselves while they were being pushed to the limit.

The duchess, 38, said: “You’re stretched in all sorts of ways looking after the patients in your care under such extreme circumstances.

“But you also need to be able to make sure you support yourselves, and each other. It must be so hard but I’m glad to hear that you’re currently getting all the support you need.”

Dr Marion Devers, the deputy chief of medical services at Monklands in Airdrie said: “It was a great opportunity to reflect. It really refuelled us.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Prince Charles praises NHS workers and volunteers in video message after leaving isolation

Those on the call, including nurses, doctors, and a hospital cleaner, spoke of the challenges they face dealing with the virus and the kindness of people who have brought food in for them.

The royals have been following government guidelines on social distancing and staying at home and so have been conducting most of their meetings by phone or video call.

The Queen’s weekly audience with the Prime Minister now happens by phone.

Last week, William and Kate shared a video of their three children taking part in Clap for Carers, in their garden in Anmer Hall.

Before the lockdown, the Cambridges also visited an NHS 111 call centre in Croydon, where they thanked staff for their work.