Patients at a hospital in England got a special visitor this afternoon when Prince William made an appearance in the corridors on Wednesday.
While we was there, William chatted to a number of patients, including a young girl and several older patients who were waiting for appointments and joked with cheering nurses as he arrived at the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital in England.
When he walked into the hospital, a gaggle of nurses and other staff had delayed their lunch break to meet him.
“I hope the the wards aren’t empty,” he joked.
Moving between meetings, he couldn’t resist stopping to talk to seven-year-old Anna Kape, who told William she had broken her arm at school. Despite the broken arm, she also had a gap-toothed grin. “He asked me if the tooth fairy would be coming,” she said.
William paid the facility a visit in order to see the work of Step into Health program, which helps ex-service people gain work in the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS.) While he was there, he spoke with employees about working with veterans.
Waking down a long passageway, he joked with the patients and staff.
“I’m sorry I brought the hospital to a standstill, that wasn’t my intention,” he said. “I hope you’re not waiting for anything for important.”
The Step Into Health is a program sponsored by the NHS, The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and veterans charity Walking With The Wounded. The purpose of the program is to provide path for people to make the transition from the military into the many career opportunities in the NHS — the largest employer in Europe.
Inside the hospital, William heard from serving and former military men and woman about their journey with Step Into Health.
Ronnie Waugh, 51, who has PTSD, was put in touch with the employment program by the charity Help for Heroes, said he has carried out a placement as a porter at a hospital in Winchester, Hampshire, and hopes to take another one soon. Waugh spent over 25 years in the British military.
WATCH: Prince William is looking Dapper as he arrives at Basingstoke & North Hampshire Hospital!
“It has been absolutely amazing,” he said. “[The hospital job] has helped my self belief and confidence. It was more about what I was doing for other people and that made me feel good. I’ve found something that I thoroughly enjoy.”
Emma Proctor, who’s currently in the Royal Air Force police, told William she is transitioning into nursing after being in the military for 16 years.
“It can be a daunting process to go successfully from the military to civilian street,” she said. “They have helped and given me the confidence to have a new career.”
Of William, Proctor said, “He was really encouraging and inspiring.”
“He seemed to understand the reality of what it would be like to change,” Clinical matron Joanne Extance, who is mentoring Proctor, said of William.
Former army captain Palmer Winstanley adds that the skill set is similar for the military and the NHS and personnel can be suited to both.
“When it comes to the NHS, you’re constantly on tour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he said. “Nurses and doctors are the heroes which as a manager I support — in the same way as I would support my soldiers.”
Winstanley left the army in November 2014 suffering from PTSD after nine years. An incident in which his battle group lost 54 men, and his own platoon in the Rifles Regiment five men was particularly significant.
RELATED VIDEO: Prince William and Princess Kate Open Up On Mental Health
The program helped him get back into employment and he has been with Norfolk and Norwich University NHS Trust where he is now deputy operations manager in the emergency department.
Winstanley praised William and his brother Prince Harry for instigating initiatives like this one.
“It’s fantastic what they’re doing in raising awareness,” he said. “All the stuff that Harry has done recently in talking about his mother shows it is not just PTSD. There are other significant events in people’s lives too.”
As he left the event, William was drawn to a woman, Doreen Patterson, 90, who was in a wheelchair and covered in a blanket. He walked over to her and held her hand.
“He held my hand with both of his,” Patterson said. “He held my hand with a good hard grip. My daughter Janice will be very envious!”
“He was really lovely,” Patterson’s volunteer aide, Annie Smith, added. “We didn’t expect for a minute that he would come over.”