The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Swindon Fire Station on Monday to thank the town’s emergency services personnel for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Camilla met with firefighters from the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service as well as the staff from Great Western Hospital and paramedics from the South Western Ambulance Service during her visit and learned how they have adapted their services throughout the pandemic and to thank them.
The Duchess told the emergency services personnel: “It’s one of these things, everybody has pulled together, which is so important – I take my hat off to you all.”
Camilla was introduced to the emergency services personnel by Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell and told station manager Sam Legg-Bagg: “We couldn’t have done without you – thank you very much.”
Her Royal Highness also had the opportunity to view three of the station’s fire engines, a rapid response car, and an ambulance that had been used by the firefighters during the pandemic. The firefighters have been operating despite “changes to cleaning arrangements, social distancing, sickness reporting and additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in line with PHE guidance,” according to Clarence House.
The firefighters who are trained in emergency response and first aid have been helping the South Western Ambulance Service in responding to calls with a clinician. Clarence House noted that firefighters have responded to 716 requests out of the over 3,000 incidents that have been called in during the pandemic.
Firefighters have also been “helping to package and deliver food and medication to vulnerable members of the community; helping to construct, fit and train NHS staff in the use of respiratory PPE; face-fit testing of PPE for ambulance staff; and resourcing the temporary mortality support facility, built at the Port of Poole,” Clarence House said.
Camilla also met with the Chief Executive of Great Western Hospital, Kevin McNamara, ICU Matron, Maxine Buyanga, and Consultant and Principle Investigator for the RECOVERY trial, Dr Anthony Kerry, all of whom chatted with her about their work.
They were joined by Steph Bond, the Operations Officer of the South Western Ambulance Service, Charlotte Goldsmith, the Lead Paramedic, and Karolina Butlanska, an Emergency Care Assistant.
Bond said afterwards: “The Duchess was very interested to hear how we have coped during the pandemic and extremely understanding of the pressures we have all faced whilst caring for people in the most difficult circumstances.”
Before she left the Swindon Fire Station, the Duchess of Cornwall said: “Just before I go, I’d like to thank you for everything you’ve done throughout this pandemic – I don’t know, we just have to keep our fingers crossed that we don’t see the second wave.
“But I think it’s lovely to see how everybody’s working together.”
Camilla then visited the Swindon Borough Council to meet with its members and representatives from the Live Well Hub to hear more about the town’s response to the pandemic and how they benefitted from the Council’s services during the lockdown.
According to Clarence House, around 145 staff members at the Swindon Town Council “volunteered to be redeployed into unfamiliar roles to help colleagues during the pandemic and a Live Well Hub was set up to support isolated residents who were either told to shield by the NHS or had no family support network.”
The Live Well Hub was a volunteer network that did, among other tasks, jobs like making welfare calls to vulnerable residents, delivering food parcels to shield residents or those without family support, supported residents who had been discharged from the hospital and gave medication to isolated residents.
Clarence House also noted, “In addition, the Council’s housing team worked tirelessly to ensure 38 homeless or rough sleepers found accommodation during the lockdown period with several individuals now in permanent accommodation.”
The Duchess also met with the Children’s Services staff and the Council’s Register Office staff and also packaged the 1,000th food parcel for delivery to an isolated resident.
Afterwards, the food logistics manager for Live Well Hub, Ben Humphrey, said in a blog post on the Borough’s website: “It has been a busy, but ultimately very rewarding time for our team. To receive recognition from Her Royal Highness today was amazing and a big boost for our entire team and the dozens of volunteers who have selflessly give up their time to help others at this difficult time.”
Swindon’s Mayor, Councillor Garry Perkins, said of Camilla: “It was also fitting that Her Royal Highness packed our 1,000th food parcel as she was able to see at first hand how the Council has made such a difference to thousands of people who have no one to call on in times of crisis.”
He added: “It was an absolute honour and privilege to meet Her Royal Highness today and to introduce her to some of the unsung heroes who have provided a lifeline to so many residents in the Borough.
“This pandemic has highlighted the importance of councils to the local communities that they serve and I was proud to stand next to the staff and volunteers as they described their fabulous work over the past three months.”