VIDEO: A touching tribute to 'selfless' NHS workers - Prince William and Kate Middleton stun the Ribble Valley by choosing to visit Clitheroe Community Hospital

Their Royal Highnesses appeared in good spirits as they arrived at the hospital this afternoon where they learnt about the unique challenges faced by rural health providers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Faiza Afzaal
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 7:46 pm

The Duchess of Cambridge looked stunning in a camel wool and cashmere coat, teaming it with a tan Iris and Ink poloneck jumper with a matching skirt and suede boots. She accessorised her look with beautiful gold earrings.

Clitheroe resident, Catherine Taylor, chose a good day to have an appointment at the Chatburn Road hospital. She said: "Kate Middleton is beautiful - absolutely stunning. I love the Royal Family and I cannot believe she smiled at me. I certainly picked a good day to have an appointment at the hospital!"

During their two-hour visit, the couple were in fits of giggles when they met 10-week-old adorable puppy, Alfie. The apricot cockapoo will be trained as a therapy dog to support patients and colleagues at the hospital. He will join Jasper, a six-year-old cockapoo and award-winning therapy dog already supporting staff and patients across the Trust.

Sign up to our daily Burnley Express Today newsletter

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the hospital

While cuddling up with Alfie, the mother-of-three could be heard exclaiming: 'You are so sweet! You match my coat!' Turning to Prince William, she added: "Our dog is going to be very upset."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spoke to GPs, nurses and other healthcare professionals who work across the community, giving a welcome morale boost to a team that has carried on providing the best possible care for elderly and sick patients, within the hospital and in the rural community, despite experiencing the busiest services on record.

Among the ones they spoke to is Clitheroe GP of Pendeside Practice and Clinical Director, Dr Vanessa Warren, who said: "They were both so lovely and really interested in the patients. They were really interested to talk to the patients, but also interested in staff welfare and staff mental health. They spoke about how Clitheroe Health Centre delivered vaccines as well as doing our day-to-day jobs. It was a privilege to have met them."

In addition, the Royal couple met patients, including those who will soon be able to leave hospital thanks to the care they have received from the team, with continued support provided at home.

Tracy Sconce speaks to Prince William about the challenges faced by NHS staff during the pandemic

Patient Bill Taylor (94), was asked by the royals about the care he had received at the hospital and joked: "They're trying their best but there's some awkward buggers."

The retired policeman praised the hospital food, telling the couple he had a "grand" meat and potato pie for his lunch.

He said: "We all enjoy ourselves up here. But we'd like you to come up more often."

He pointed out Pendle Hill, seen from the window of his ward, and told them: "The kids would enjoy it."

Denise Gee, ELHT&ME charity manager

Meanwhile, staff at Clitheroe Community Hospital say Prince William and Kate Middleton's visit provided "a huge boost" to the entire team at a time when colleagues are feeling exhausted.

Clitheroe resident, Tracy Sconce, Clinical Team Leader of District Nursing, said: "I spoke to His Royal Highness and he was very interested in how we managed and supported each other during the pandemic as a community and as a team. I am so proud that they came to recognise here in Clitheroe. It was a honour and priviledge to meet them."

In their role as Joint Royal Patrons for independent charity NHS Charities Together, they also heard how support from the hospital charity ELHT&Me, using a grant from NHS Charities Together, helped to support exhausted colleagues at the Trust.

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive for NHS Charities Together, went onto say: “It means so much to NHS staff that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could visit the team in East Lancashire today to hear their experiences and see first-hand how support from the public through NHS charities makes such a difference. Sadly, the pressures facing the NHS aren’t going away any time soon, so it’s vital that we continue to be there to support the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff, so they are able to face whatever challenges are ahead.

"We are so grateful to our Royal Patrons for helping to shine a light on this issue and supporting the incredible NHS workforce.”

Professor Eileen Fairhurst, chairman of the trust, said: "It was really uplifting for our staff, a real morale boost that their work has been recognised by this high profile visit and it's testament to the hard work and commitment of all our colleagues in the trust in the real challenges and difficulties we have faced since the pandemic.

"We have been hardest hit in this part of the country and it has really not gone away."

Before they left, the Royal couple paid a touching tribute by attending a memorial for staff who have died from Covid-19.

Following their time at the hospital, the Duke and Duchess visited Church on the Street, in Burnley, run by Pastor Mick Fleming.