Sophie, Countess of Wessex rolls up her sleeves and packs food parcels for nurses on coronavirus front line

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
The countess met midwives and nurses who work at the trust. (Ashford and St Peter's NHS Trust)

The Countess of Wessex spent International Nurses Day packing and delivering food parcels for healthcare staff near her home.

Sophie, who has been volunteering privately throughout the coronavirus pandemic, worked with Nourish Our Nurses on Tuesday, meeting nurses, midwives and other medics.

She helped the team of 16 volunteers pack and deliver 200 bags to St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey, close to her home in Bagshot Park.

The countess also placed golden envelopes with extra treats in some of the parcels, including vouchers for afternoon tea and beauty treatments.

It came after she joined her niece-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge in making calls to nurses across the Commonwealth.

The pair, who don’t often work together, called Army nurses in Cyprus as well as teams in hospitals in India and Sierra Leone, which the countess has visited.

Read more: The Queen and Duchess of Cambridge release touching messages to nurses

Sophie helped pack and deliver bags of food to hospital staff. (Sarah Legge Photography)
She spent the day packing bags in Chertsey. (Sarah Legge Photography)

On Tuesday, Sophie, 55, met nurses from across the Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust after delivering the food, and stood apart from others involved to maintain social distancing rules.

Nourish our Nurses was founded by Jo-Ann Airikkala, who was inspired to start the scheme after learning of a friend’s experience as a nurse in Edinburgh.

They have so far raised more than £45,000 - £29,000 via their GoFundMe page and a further £17,000 from Virgin Radio’s NHS Auction.

“Seeing the panic buying and empty supermarket shelves really got me thinking about our frontline NHS heroes,” Ms Airikkala said.

The countess has been volunteering in the community through the pandemic. (Ashford and St Peter's NHS Trust)
The countess helped put 200 bags of food together. (Ashford and St Peter's NHS Trust)

“Those working flat out to care for patients deserve to be looked after and provided with the ingredients for a healthy, hearty meal.”

Read more: Sophie, Countess of Wessex, made a secret visit to a homeless shelter in mask and gloves

She added: “We buy all the produce fresh from the market twice a week at 4.30am and to date have delivered a total of 2,800 bags over the past seven weeks.

“We also contain a recipe idea in each bag to provide inspiration which one nurse described as a ‘genius idea’.”

The work won praise on social media, as the organisation shared images of Sophie hard at work.

One said: “We love our Sophie.”

Another added: “She hasn’t stopped! She is just wonderful.”

And one said: “This woman has been astounding during this pandemic, an unassuming Royal with a heart of gold.”

Andrea Lewis, Interim Chief Nurse at the hospital, said: “The last few weeks have been really challenging and we know that is likely to continue for some time, but the support we’ve received from the local community and groups such as ‘Nourish our Nurses’ has been amazing. I would really like to thank Jo-Ann, Debi and all the volunteers who are working so hard to help us – we have been blown away by their kindness and commitment.”

Andy Field, chairman of the trust, said: “It was a real treat for some of our hard-working nurses and midwives to meet the countess and receive their food bags and golden envelopes.”

Sophie has been spotted volunteering in several places throughout the pandemic, and has also appeared frequently on the Royal Family’s Instagram with tips and resources to help in lockdown.

Read more: Coronavirus: Countess of Wessex pictured making spaghetti bolognese for NHS workers

In mid-April she helped make “thousands of meals” for NHS workers as she volunteered with Rhubarb. That came a few days after she helped out at a homeless shelter where she met staff and volunteers, and assisted in packing emergency Easter parcels for those affected by the pandemic.