Prince William reveals his fears for NHS workers - 'You see the world as a darker place'

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·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read
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  • Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
    Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
    Duke of Cambridge

Watch: Prince William and Kate speak to frontline workers

Prince William has revealed he saw the world as a “darker, blacker place” during his years of service as an air ambulance pilot.

William, 38, worked for the East Anglian Air Ambulance for two years before he became a full time working royal in 2017, and has opened up on a number of occasions about the experience.

On Wednesday, he and his wife Kate, 39, spoke to frontline workers and counsellors on a video call about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic, and empathised with what the workers have to face each day.

The couple was warned the nation may be faced with “broken police officers and emergency services staff” after the pandemic, with William saying he “really worries” about the “death and so much bereavement” they see everyday.

Carly Kennard – Emergency Call Coordinator, London Ambulance Service, Jules Lockett – Emergency Operations Centre Training Lead, London Ambulance Service, Conal Devitt - Social Prescribing Link Worker, Formby Primary Care Network, Manal Sadik – Associate Director for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Widening Participation, Guys and St Thomas’, Phil Spencer, Wellbeing Inspector, Cleveland Police, Tony Collins, Just ‘B’ volunteer helpline call handler and CEO of North Yorkshire Hospice Care (NYCC) and Caroline Francis, Just ‘B’ helpline support worker and nurse at North Yorkshire Hospice Care (NYCC) on the call with Prince William and Kate. (Kensington Royal)
Carly Kennard, Jules Lockett, Conal Devitt, Manal Sadik, Phil Spencer, Tony Collins, and Caroline Francis, on the call with Prince William and Kate. (Kensington Royal)

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Drawing on his experience, in response to one of the call participants, he said: “When you see so much death and so much bereavement it does impact how you see the world.

“It is very interesting what you said about being able to see things in a different light.”

Referring to a comment made by a member of the London Ambulance Service he added: “I think you said about thinking everyone around you is going to die – that is what really worries me about the frontline staff at the moment, is that you are so under the cosh at the moment and so pressurised and you’re seeing such high levels of sadness, trauma, death, that it impacts your own life and your own family life because it is always there.

“You’re so drawn into it, which everyone is, it is only natural that would happen.

The Duke and Duchess showed a different room in their home. (Kensington Royal)
The Duke and Duchess showed a different room in their home. (Kensington Royal)

“But that’s what I think a lot of the public don’t understand, that when you’re surrounded by that level of intense trauma and sadness and bereavement, it really does, it stays with you at home, it stays with you for weeks on end, doesn’t it, and you see the world in a much more, slightly depressed, darker, blacker place.”

The couple talked with the workers and the counsellors, from Hospice UK’s Just ‘B’, about the importance of seeking help, and said the stigma around getting help for mental health issues should end.

Just ‘B’ was supported by the Royal Foundation through its COVID-19 Response Fund, providing a helpline which runs from 8am-8pm everyday of the year.

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND - JULY 13:  Prince William, Duke of Cambridge gives Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh a tour as they open the new East Anglian Air Ambulance Base at Cambridge Airport on July 13, 2016 in Cambridge, England.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
William gave Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip a tour of his work as they opened East Anglian Air Ambulance Base at Cambridge Airport in 2016. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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Support includes help for those suffering anxiety after encountering a significant number of deaths and support for personal bereavement and loss.

Phil Spencer, Wellbeing Inspector of Cleveland Police, told the royal couple: “I think police just get on with it.

“Like a lot of emergency services we run towards danger, run towards a terrorist attack, we run towards the pandemic, and I personally think this is why police haven’t engaged perhaps as much as we could have (with the counselling) at Just B, is because we don’t want to take anybody else’s valuable time.

“Perhaps further down the line when all this is gone we’re going to have some broken police officers and emergency services staff, because we’re too busy focusing on protecting the most vulnerable.”

Spencer said NHS workers are “heroes” and added that police officers are sometimes “seen as the villains sometimes – again can’t do right for doing wrong – having to put the fines out and lay down the law”.

Wearing protective face coverings to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (R) and Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, meet NHS (National Health Service) staff during a visit to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading,  west of London to pass on their thanks on behalf of the nation for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, on December 8, 2020, on the final day of engagements on their tour of the UK. - During their trip, their Royal Highnesses hope to pay tribute to individuals, organisations and initiatives across the country that have gone above and beyond to support their local communities this year. (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Prince William and Kate met NHS staff during a visit to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, in December 2020, during the royal train tour. (Matthew Childs/AFP)

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Of Just ‘B’, William said: “I think people need to understand how you are normal human beings doing a brilliant job in a very, very difficult time and I hope this service gives people the outlet that they need.

“I fear, like you said, you’re all so busy caring for everyone else that you won’t take enough time to care for yourselves, and we won’t see the impacts for quite some time.”

Carly Kennard, an emergency call co-ordinator with the London Ambulance Service, shared how Just ‘B’ helped her after the sudden death of her uncle over Christmas.

She said: “I called and I spoke to a lovely lady, I cried to the lovely lady and it helped.”

She added: “It’s still early, and I’m still not OK, but I know I’ve got the support networks around me to help.”

William and Kate made mental health support for frontline and key workers a main focus of their royal work back in April when the pandemic was at its peak.

They launched Our Frontline, to offer support and help for people affected during their work in the NHS and on other services, like transport.

Last week, Prince William told hospital workers in London that he and Kate tell their children about the sacrifices NHS workers are making “everyday”.

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