The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have visited an ambulance station in east London – and ended up FaceTiming a paramedic’s father in Bangladesh.
William and Kate chatted with staff at Newham Ambulance Station about their experiences of working during one of the most challenging periods in the London Ambulance Service’s history.
Paramedic Jay Khan asked the couple if it was okay to call her dad Abu in Bangladesh, who has been staying separated from his family since lockdown after his mother fell ill.
William told Abu: “You must be very proud of your daughter.”
Abu replied: “Yes we are all very proud of her.”
The royals also joined a call with Jay’s sister Nasrin and granddad Baharam in the UK.
William told them: “She works very hard and she’s looking forward to seeing you soon.”
Kate said: “Hopefully it won’t be too long before you can all meet up and see each other again.”
The couple laughed as Jay told her family: “Say bye now. Let them go.”
William quipped: “We can stay here and do some more family chatting if that works?”
William and Kate joined Jay in the station’s Wellbeing Garden to hear how she has coped with the pressures of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of having to isolate from her family.
They also met paramedic Shani Smith who has been helping to run one of the special tea trucks to serve ambulance staff and medics over the past year, and heard how she has used her mental health training to provide peer support to her colleagues.
Shani, who has worked for the service for over 20 years, said this was the worst time she had ever experienced.
“It’s been like one long major incident,” she said.
Launched in February 2020, the Wellbeing Tea Trucks travel to hospitals and control centres across the capital each day, serving hot drinks and snacks to ambulance staff and volunteers and offering them the chance to take a moment to pause and refresh.
William and Kate also heard more about the mental health and wellbeing support provided to staff at the station, including drop-in sessions and the wellbeing spaces.
The duchess was wearing a long camel-coloured double breasted coat with colour-coordinated floral face mask, while the duke was in a navy face mask and matching overcoat.
The visit on Thursday came a week and a half after the monarchy was plunged into crisis by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Oprah interview.
Meghan accused the royal family of racism, but also said the institution failed to help her when she had suicidal thoughts.
Mental health has been at the forefront of William and Kate’s royal duties for a number of years, with the couple launching the Heads Together initiative with Harry.
But Harry told Oprah Winfrey he was ashamed of admitting to his family that his wife needed help, adding: “That’s just not a conversation that would be had.”
William, who has faced a rift with his brother, and Kate were pictured against a backdrop of a mural at the station of a red heart mended with plasters beneath a gold crown and above the words “Healing Hurt”.
The Queen has said the issues raised in the Oprah interview will be dealt with privately as a family, but that “some recollections may vary”.
US presenter Gayle King – a friend of Meghan’s – said this week that initial talks between Harry and his father the Prince of Wales and William were “not productive”.
Kensington Palace said, following the visit to the station, that William is committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the emergency services community, having witnessed first-hand the challenges emergency responders face on a daily basis during his roles as both an air ambulance and RAF search and rescue pilot.
The palace added: “Over the last year, the duke and duchess and the Royal Foundation have worked to support those working on the frontline of the pandemic, including through the provision of grants to 10 leading charities at the heart of mental health and frontline support as part of a bespoke Covid relief fund.”
Newham Station forms part of the second busiest station group in the London Ambulance Service (LAS), dealing with more than 76,500 calls over the past year.
The LAS has received £100,000 of funding from NHS Charities Together, of which William and Kate are joint patrons, to run the tea trucks and expand the provision.
The funding was also used to create isolation packs and food for staff across LAS sites.