The Duke of Cambridge has made his first post-lockdown visit in person to say thank you to frontline ambulance workers.
On Tuesday afternoon, Prince William went to King’s Lynn Ambulance Station at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to praise staff from the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) for their work and dedication during the coronavirus outbreak.
Before entering the site, William was asked to take a Covid-19 temperature test and washed his hands before stopping himself from shaking hands with members of the ambulance crew.
“I’m still fighting the urge to shake hands,” he said. “I’m keeping my hands by my side.”
During the visit, the duke heard about the work that has been carried out to ensure that EEAST has been able to continue to provide its services throughout the pandemic.
The crew also spoke about the support that they have received from members of the public, local businesses and volunteering networks.
Carl Smith, a critical care paramedic, told William that the ambulance station had previously put out an appeal for volunteers and received a ”huge response”.
“The call to arms has been fantastic”, Mr Smith added.
William praised the staff, saying: “Most jobs you have experienced and done for a long time but this was completely new for the NHS.
“You guys have managed extremely well, organised extremely well. I imagine the complexities involved have been quite challenging.”
Mr Smith went on to explain to the duke that while ambulance crews had been supplied with enough PPE during the crisis, wearing the masks had proven to be a “barrier” to treating worried patients.
The paramedic described the distress that some patients, especially the elderly, experienced when crews arrived first at the scene in their protective outfits.
“It was a really difficult time. We were the first people (on the scene) and they were frightened and a lot of them were frail,” Mr Smith said. “It was upsetting to see they look on their faces when we had the PPE on.”
William also heard about the impact that the pandemic has had on the mental health and wellbeing of first responders.
In April, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge launched Our Frontline, an initiative which was created to provide round-the-clock mental health and bereavement support to frontline staff and key workers.
“I imagine there’s going to be a big impact in terms of mental health for frontline workers,” William said during the visit.
To which staff told the duke that managers had all been given “Spot The Signs” training to ensure they were looking out for their colleagues.
William also spoke to the crew about the weekly Clap For Carers initiative that took place for 10 weeks during lockdown, saying: “It was powerful wasn’t it. We are very busy, and when everyone stops and finds a way to acknowledge very publicly and very visibly what the service does, [that] is very important.
“Everyone appreciates the NHS. It’s not until you have a big crisis [like a] pandemic and everyone realises we have to really make sure we value, and we show our appreciation.”
The visit was William’s first public engagement since he visited the London Ambulance NHS 111 centre in Croydon on 16 March, before lockdown began.
The duke has been in lockdown with Kate and their three children, George, six, Charlotte, five, and two-year-old Louis, in their Norfolk home at Amner on the Sandringham Estate.
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