Queen Elizabeth inspects Platinum Jubilee art submissions
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She spoke for the first time of being laid low by a bout of the virus, saying of the public health crisis: “It’s not a nice result.” Her Majesty was discussing Covid with NHS staff during a virtual visit to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London. She also empathised with other Covid sufferers and praised the Dunkirk spirit of key workers.
The talk was arranged to mark the official opening of the hospital’s 155-bed Queen Elizabeth Unit for Covid patients.
During her video call with workers and medical staff, the Queen listened to their stories of coping with the huge influx of Covid patients. She was told by one senior nurse: “We held their hands, we wiped their tears and we provided comfort.”
Around 800 people from across north-east London were treated at the unit, built in five weeks to meet the demand. The Queen praised the Dunkirk spirit that inspired the construction team.
The monarch, who will be 96 on April 21, also sympathised with a former patient who spent seven weeks on a ventilator in hospital and lost his brother and father to the illness.
As she spoke with Asef Hussain and his wife Shamina, the Queen recalled her own experience of contracting the virus, which left her with what Buckingham Palace described as mild cold-like symptoms.
She said: “It does leave one very tired and exhausted, doesn’t it? This horrible pandemic. It’s not a nice result.”
Mr Hussain was the third member of his family to be admitted to hospital with Covid after becoming ill towards the end of December 2020. His brother died and then his father passed away while Mr Hussain was on a ventilator.
“Oh dear,” the Queen said, looking surprised and concerned as he told her about their deaths.
She spoke for the first time of being laid low by a bout of the virus (Image: PA)
The Queen was told his wife had called an ambulance after he had struggled to catch his breath. Mr Hussain added: “I remember waking up one morning and just finding it really difficult to breathe.
“I remember waking my wife saying that I feel like there’s no oxygen in the room. I remember sticking my head out the window, just trying to breathe, trying to get that extra oxygen.”
Mr Hussain was eventually put on a ventilator for seven weeks at the Royal London Hospital, and is still recovering.
He has recently stopped using a wheelchair but still carries a portable oxygen machine.
Mrs Hussain told the Queen that at one point there were 500 friends and family from across the world on a video call praying for her husband.
The monarch said: “Praying for him? Oh wonderful.” Lightening the mood and making the couple smile, she then asked: “So you have a large family – or a large influence on people?”
During her discussions with hospital staff, the Queen heard several times about families and friends being unable to visit loved ones being treated in hospital.
She said: “Of course not being able to see your relative was very hard.”
She was perhaps recalling her own experience of waiting at home while Prince Philip was treated in hospital for a month a few weeks before his death last year.
Mireia Lopez Rey Ferrer, a senior sister who has worked at the hospital in Whitechapel since 2008, told the Queen about their commitment to the patients.
She said: “As nurses, we made sure that they were not alone. We held their hands, we wiped their tears and we provided comfort.
“It felt at times that we were running a marathon with no finish line.
“I look back to the last 18 months with great pride. Pride not only in the care we provided to each and every single patient that was in one of our hospital beds, but pride in each member of staff that every day left their families at home despite their fears and worries. And they came to work.”
Junior Sister Charlie Mort said: “The amount of bravery both the patients and my colleagues showed throughout the pandemic was amazing, and the amount of kindness we were shown was inspiring. I think we’ll all be bonded together because of it forever.”
The Queen, who is the hospital’s patron, said: “It was obviously a very frightening experience to have Covid very badly, wasn’t it?”
At the end of the call, the Queen chatted to the construction team who created the unit on the hospital’s 14th and 15th floors in quick time.
She told them: “It is very interesting, isn’t it, when there is some very vital thing, how everybody works together and pulls together. Marvellous isn’t it?”
The Queen empathised with other Covid sufferers and praised the Dunkirk spirit of key workers (Image: Buckingham Palace/handout)
When the team described the “Dunkirk spirit” that inspired them, the monarch replied: “Thank goodness it still exists.”
Her representative, Sir Kenneth Olisa, the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, unveiled a plaque at the hospital to open the unit formally.
The Queen, who has been holding virtual audiences in an effort to reduce her face-to-face meetings during the latter stages of the pandemic, is expected to attend more official engagements by video in the future.
Video calls will be one of a number of strategies used to allow her to continue working while struggling with mobility issues.
Analysis of the Court Circular by the Daily Express last week showed that the Queen undertook more engagements in the first quarter of this year than she did in the previous two years.
Meanwhile, the Princess Royal has continued her Australian tour by meeting with the families of two firefighters who died in the Black Summer bushfires.
Anne visited the New South Wales Rural Fire Service headquarters in Sydney with her husband, Sir Timothy Laurence.
The late volunteer firefighters Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, had been battling the fires in December 2019. Due to each man leaving behind a young child, a memorial playground was built in their honour.
The Princess on Sunday visited the playground in Buxton, some 62 miles south-west of Sydney.
On Sunday April 3 there were 16,366 Covid patients in England (Image: Getty)
NHS plea to ministers to get a grip on virus
THIS Easter is “as bad as any winter” for the NHS and the Government must rethink plans for living with Covid, health leaders are warning.
The NHS Confederation said messaging about a return to normal life was misleading and discouraging actions to stop the virus’s spread.
Chief executive Matthew Taylor said ministers needed to “get a grip”.
On Sunday April 3, the most recent day with data, there were 16,366 Covid patients in England and more than 65,000 NHS staff off sick or self-isolating. That includes more than 25,000 linked to the virus.
Mr Taylor said: “The brutal reality for staff and patients is that this Easter in the NHS is as bad as
“But instead of the understanding and support NHS staff received during 2020 and 2021, we have a Government that seems to want to wash its hands of responsibility.”
About 4.1million – around one in 13 – were thought to have had Covid in England in the week to April 2. However, jabs are keeping severe illness and death far below levels seen in previous waves.
Pandemic delays have given my husband a ‘death sentence’
A CANCER sufferer has been told he has 16 months to live after long hold-ups in diagnosis and treatment.
Clive Forder, 68, begged to be seen by medics before Christmas after complaining of a chest infection.
He could not get a face-to-face appointment so was given antibiotics. The father of three was finally sent for an X-ray on January 18. It revealed a three-inch mass on his right lung, later diagnosed as non-small cell lung cancer.
Today – 83 days after the discovery – he is still waiting to start treatment. The tragedy highlights the crisis in cancer care that has affected at least 100,000 during the pandemic.
His wife and carer Tina, 60, said: “They have handed my husband a death sentence.
“He is now too ill to have his lung removed and too ill to have chemotherapy. They knew how serious this was back in January when he was well enough to have an operation.
“We still don’t know when Clive is going to start treatment. He can’t walk and is losing weight rapidly.
“They said his prognosis is between 16-18 months. If they had got their fingers out he could have started treatment in January. If he went to A&E he would have had a scan the same day. Being an outpatient meant we have had to wait. It’s made him worse.”
Lung cancer can be found as a mass on chest X-rays of patients with no symptoms, but most have telltale signs. They include a new cough, rib or shoulder pain and weight loss. Speaking for her sick husband, Tina, of Spalding, Lincs, said he has only been able to see a GP twice in the last two years.
Before the pandemic Clive had a persistent cough and was incorrectly diagnosed in 2019 with chronic pulmonary obstructive disease. In August 2020 he started to get problems with his balance and shoulder pain.
This was misdiagnosed as vertigo and old age. But a blood test last year revealed low red blood cells – a hallmark of lung cancer. The test was repeated with the same result but he was prescribed iron tablets.
The NHS says at least 85 percent of cancer patients should wait no more than 62 days to start treatment following an urgent referral from a GP.
This target has not been met for six years. Clive was told surgeons might have been able to remove part of his lung. Now radiotherapy is his only option.
Tina said: “We have been treated like a number – personalised care has gone and people like my Clive are suffering because of it.” Express columnist Professor Karol Sikora, 73, founder of Rutherford Health, offered to open his cancer centres to slash waiting lists in a not-for-profit deal submitted to health chiefs in December.
It would mean 30,000 of the most seriously sick NHS patients, like Clive, being fast- tracked. But it has not been taken up.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are investing record amounts in the NHS to tackle the Covid backlog.”
CLIVE Forder’s tragic story is one I know is being repeated across the country.
Some patients have not come forward, but others like Mr Forder tried to seek help but found challenges every step of the way. Prompt diagnosis and prompt treatment are absolutely vital – lengthy delays are not acceptable for a man in Mr Forder’s medical position.
One of the biggest issues with ringing the alarm bell on the cancer crisis is it would take years for the damage to reveal itself. That is now happening, with examples like the Forder family emerging on a far too regular basis.
Last week we had a report from MPs outlining the extent of the problem and a study demonstrating how poor our early diagnosis statistics are in comparison to countries of similar wealth. According to experts from UCL and elsewhere, even before lockdown, more than one third of patients were being diagnosed after presenting in an emergency situation.
They have come to A&E in intense pain, coughing up blood or with another serious symptom. What will those numbers be now? Far higher I fear.
Express readers will be more aware of the crisis than most, after a stream of stories highlighting the urgency of the situation and the need for action.
I sincerely thank Mr and Mrs Forder for having the bravery to speak out about their situation as it raises crucial awareness of the crisis.
Politicians know the problem, at least they should do. The time for talking is over, we need action. Rutherford’s offer to treat tens of thousands of patients across our network would deliver the required capacity overnight.
It is a constructive solution, which is an increasingly rare occurrence in today’s debate. The most important message I can give readers is this – if you have any persistent, usually worsening symptoms, then it is imperative you get checked by a professional.