Hero paramedic who treated UK’s first Covid patient to attend Coronation Ceremony

The paramedic who attended the UK’s first Covid patient in 2020 will be attending the Coronation Ceremony at Westminster Abbey this weekend.

Chris Bell is among hundreds of staff to be given tickets to the weekend’s events, including the Coronation Concert at on Sunday.

Mr Bell, a paramedic and A&E operations team leader in York, will attend the ceremony alongside Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England.

He said: ‘The thought of being invited to the hadn’t even crossed my mind.

‘It is a huge honour to represent Yorkshire Ambulance Service and the ambulance service as a whole.’

Chris Bell, the paramedic who attended the UK’s first Covid patient in 2020, said it was a ‘huge honour’ to attend the Coronation

Chris Bell, the paramedic who attended the UK's first Covid patient in 2020, said it was a 'huge honour' to attend the Coronation

Two hundred staff will have prime seats for Saturday’s procession in recognition of the dedication and service during the 75-year history of the health service.

A special grandstand set up near Buckingham Palace will give them a unique view of Their Majesties The King and Queen Consort leaving for Westminster Abbey, and returning in the Gold State Coach after officially being crowned.

They will also be able to see the appearance of the Royal Family on the Palace balcony, and the spectacular Armed Forces fly past.

Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu will play a key role in the ceremony, carrying the gold Sovereign Orb.

Dame Elizabeth first started working with the NHS as a school nurse assistant in Wolverhampton aged 16, and went on to become the first sickle cell nurse specialist in the UK, devoting her career to working with black and minority ethnic communities in London, and recognised as one of the 70 most influential nurses and midwives in the history of the NHS when the health service marked its 70th anniversary.

On Sunday, 50 more NHS staff from around the country will attend the Coronation Concert, held at Windsor Castle, where they will enjoy entertainment from acts including Take That, Olly Murs, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, Tom Cruise and Winnie the Pooh.

A 300-strong Coronation Choir will also perform at the concert, including members of Hull’s NHS choir, and Emma Withey, a housekeeper at Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and member of UNIFY Choir, an all-deaf sign performance group and only deaf choir in the UK.

Trusts across the country will be helping patients, staff and volunteers get in the coronation spirit, with some holding tea parties and serving Coronation quiche, screening the Coronation and concert on Sunday, and miles of bunting decorating corridors and receptions.

Mrs Pritchard said: ‘It is an extraordinary honour to be asked to attend the Coronation service on behalf of the NHS.

‘For so many health service staff to be invited to be part of this historic occasion shows the huge amount of respect and admiration the Royal Family has for the NHS and the work our dedicated staff do.

‘As we start a new chapter for the country with the coronation of His Majesty King Charles, we are also looking to the future of the health service and the opportunities ahead of us, while reflecting on the incredible history and achievements of our organisation – and our staff and volunteers – over the past 75 years.’

She added: ‘From Britain’s first heart transplant in 1958, pioneering new treatments such as bionic eyes and, in more recent times, the world’s first rapid whole genome sequencing service for seriously ill babies and children, and rolling out the biggest and fastest vaccination programme in NHS history during the Covid pandemic, the health service has always adapted to meet the changing needs of the country, and will continue to do so to ensure local care is fit for the future.’

Urgent and emergency services will continue to be available on the Bank Holiday, including urgent dental and GP appointments.

As part of the NHS 75 activities being held throughout the year, people will get the chance to see the George Cross – the UK’s highest civilian gallantry medal – awarded to the health service last year, as it tours science museums around England from July.

The medal was first announced by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the NHS’s 73rd birthday, and recognises the ‘courage, compassion and dedication’ of NHS staff and volunteers during the pandemic, as well as the work of the NHS since it was established in 1948.

It is only the third time in British history the medal has been granted to an organisation rather than an individual, and the NHS in each of the four nations received their own George Cross.

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