The King sang the praises of a group of trainee doctors, telling them “you’re all very important”, during a visit to one of the country’s oldest hospital sites.
Charles stopped briefly to chat to a group of medical students during his tour of St Bartholomew’s Hospital – one of three visits he made around the City of London on Wednesday – and quipped: “Are you meant to be somewhere?”
He asked them about their future plans, asking: “What do you hope to specialise in?” and his parting words were: “Thank god you’re all here – you’re very important.”
The British Medical Association said last month that the NHS is “at breaking point” and called for immediate Government action after a survey by the organisation found 44% of hospital consultants in England plan to leave or take a break from working in the NHS over the next year.
Charles met dozens of staff from Barts Health NHS Trust, with members of the public holding up smartphones to capture the moment during a walkabout, and one woman kissed his hand.
In May last year, he visited St Barts to chat privately with a nurse, consultant and therapist who cared for his father, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Philip spent several days at St Barts before returning to King Edward VII’s Hospital, where he spent the majority of a month-long period being treated, after initially being admitted with an infection in 2021. The duke died peacefully at Windsor Castle on April 9 last year.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital has provided continuous patient care on the same site since it was founded, with the Priory of St Bartholomew, in 1123 by a former courtier of Henry I.
The King visited the trust to learn about a series of landmark projects to mark the 900th anniversary of the hospital next year.
They include an initiative to restore the hospital’s early 18th century Grade I-listed north wing, including the conservation of vast canvasses by artist William Hogarth that decorate the walls around a grand staircase.
As the Prince of Wales, Charles was patron of Barts Heritage which has raised around £9 million for the three-year north wing conservation project, which will begin next year and see the building opened up to the public all year and offer places of contemplation and inspiration for patients and staff.
In the building’s great hall the King met supporters and professionals involved in the heritage project and another initiative to mark the anniversary, a new centre of excellence for breast cancer surgery at St Barts, with building work due to start in 2024.
Earlier, Charles met judges, barristers and students at Gray’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court in London where he is a royal bencher.
During his visit, the King was given an Inn tie as a gift and joked it was “the Inn thing”, adding: “Terribly helpful to have an extra one to choose from.”
He ended his day by visiting The Goldsmiths’ Centre, where he performed the tricky task of handstamping the king’s mark on a processional cross – believed to be the first time a king has done so in British history.
The silver cross, hallmarked by Charles, is a gift from the King to the Church in Wales and was created by silversmith and master craftsman Michael Lloyd after he was commissioned by The Goldsmiths’ Company on behalf of the former Prince of Wales.
After a couple of practice runs, the King breathed a sigh of relief when he was told his strike was perfect – and then jokingly asked Mr Lloyd if he had “ruined” it.