The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have phoned the colleagues of the first frontline NHS hospital worker to die after contracting coronavirus to sympathise with their loss and praise their “incredible” efforts.
William and Kate “shared in our grief”, staff from Queen’s Hospital Burton in the West Midlands said after the royals rang on Wednesday to talk about consultant Amged El-Hawrani.
Mr El-Hawrani, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon, died at Leicester Royal Infirmary on Saturday after contracting Covid-19 from his patients.
Adrian Thompson, an ENT consultant at the Burton on Trent hospital where Mr El-Hawrani had worked, said: “I have worked with Amged for 14 years at Queen’s Hospital. He was a close friend and colleague and was highly respected by everybody who worked with him.
“We are all aware of the seriousness of Covid but when it takes the life of one of our own it hits us a bit harder.
“Their royal highnesses were very empathetic in offering their condolences and they were really sorry to hear we had lost a colleague.”
The duke and duchess chatted via speaker phone from their Norfolk home to hospital staff in Staffordshire whose shifts had been arranged so they were able to briefly step away from their duties without patient care suffering.
Taking part were 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.
A @UHDBTrust consultant will take on a 24-hour static bike ride tomorrow in memory of our beloved colleague Mr Amged El Hawrani, who sadly passed away over the weekend. All proceeds will go to @hospitalcharity You can donate here: https://t.co/v0LOauHfpS pic.twitter.com/mENYESsM4e— University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS FT (@UHDBTrust) March 31, 2020
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.”
During the call 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 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.”
Alice Bloxham, a sister in the hospital’s Covid-19 cohort ward, said of the call: “Until recently our ward was an acute care of the elderly ward, but now we are caring for patients with Covid-19.
“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.”
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.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been in regular contact with organisations and patronages to understand the issues they are facing during this difficult time.— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) March 29, 2020
Last week The Duke spoke to @MindCharity CEO Paul Farmer and The Duchess spoke to @Place2Be CEO Catherine Roche. pic.twitter.com/Ldk2j9SnTk
“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 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 the call had “refuelled” the staff.
She was one of eight people who took part in the conversation, including nurses, doctors, and a hospital cleaner.
They discussed their own problems, the challenges of dealing with coronavirus, and the kindness of people who had brought in bread, flour, and other gifts for the staff.
NHS Scotland chose the hospital because it was one of the first north of the border to begin treating Covid-19 patients two months ago.
Dr Devers said of the call: “It was a great opportunity to reflect. It really refuelled us.”