The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made a special visit to King’s Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital to thank staff for their dedication and the local community for its support for the NHS during the pandemic.
William and Kate, who have a family home at nearby Anmer Hall, met staff on Sunday and learned about the personal sacrifices which have been made caring for COVID-19 patients.
They chatted to operating department practitioner Suzie Vaughan, who spent nine weeks away from her daughters Bella, 9, and Hettie, 7, to protect them from virus and devote all her time to her work.
The family was among guests from the hospital and community at the socially distanced celebration, where they clapped to mark 72 years of the NHS.
Bella and Hettie went to live with Ms Vaughan’s sister who recorded their emotional reunion last month. The video attracted more than 2.5 million views after being posted on social media.
The Duke and Duchess also spoke to coronavirus survivor Sam Jude, a clinical nurse educator at the hospital. Mr Jude, originally from India, has worked at the trust for four years and praised colleagues for their care.
“I’m just so grateful right now – one, just to be alive to see all this happening and to have fought COVID-19, two, for such a great Team QEH family, and three, for all the love and support from Terrington short stay team, acute medicine and beyond,” he said.
Staff cared for more than 450 patients with COVID-19 in the first few months of the pandemic and 296 who tested positive have been discharged.
Frontline doctors and nurses, support teams and administration staff have all worked tirelessly to provide safe care for patients.
The hospital was split into zones to separate COVID and suspected COVID patients from non-COVID patients.
An additional emergency department was created and a spokesman said new ways of working and technology were implemented at pace and staff were redeployed into new teams to support care.
Trust chairman Professor Steve Barnett said: “The past few months have been incredibly challenging for everyone at QEH and for the wider NHS as we have responded to this global pandemic.
“I could not be more proud of how our staff have responded – always putting patients and their safety first.
“As the nation celebrates the NHS’s 72nd birthday and we mark our own hospital’s 40th anniversary, today’s (Sunday’s) visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is a testament to the high regard we all have for those who care for us when we need it the most.
“Both our staff and the local community, who have given us so much support over the past few months, should be rightly proud of themselves.
“We have an incredibly special relationship with our local community in West Norfolk, and today’s (Sunday’s) clap was about saying thank you for the unrivalled support we have received in recent months, for which we could not be more grateful.”