THE Duke of Westminster has praised keyworkers across Cheshire for their efforts throughout the Covid pandemic during at a ‘Rainbow Day’ celebration at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

The Duke placed a time capsule at the foot of the hospital site's new rainbow sculpture yesterday (October 12) and spoke to staff from the Countess as well as other local services including North West Ambulance Service and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The Rainbow, built by the British Ironwork Centre and sponsored by Medicash, is located outside the main entrance and stands as a tribute to the efforts of keyworkers during the pandemic.

The Duke of Westminster said: "The time capsule I helped bury contains several items that all capture the local experience of Covid-19 here in Chester in such a personal and fitting way.

"But one thing that can never be sufficiently captured – such is its scale – is the immense debt of gratitude that we all owe the Countess of Chester Hospital, alongside NHS staff up and down the country, for the care and compassion you have provided us at the most challenging time."

The time capsule contained items relating to Covid such as pictures and letters from schoolchildren, personal messages and photographs from staff, an empty vial of Pfizer vaccine to signify the Countess’ role in the vaccination roll out, a memory bag from the palliative care team, and a prayer from the hospital’s Chaplaincy team.

Representatives from the hospital and other emergency services heard the Duke give a short speech, in which he said he was "humbled by their dedication" and wanted "to pay tribute to their selfless commitment to do whatever has been necessary to look after patients" before getting the chance to meet him.

Chester and District Standard:

Here are some of their comments from those who were part of the ‘Rainbow Day’ celebrations:

Consultant anaesthetist, Dr Simon Ridler: “I think the Rainbow is an important recognition of the teamwork that everyone continues to put in during the pandemic.

"This is also an important landmark in our fundraising for the Blues Skies Balcony Appeal which will give more of our patients the chance to feel the air on their face and enjoy being outside."

Practice education facilitator Jessie Joy: "It’s wonderful to celebrate something so positive after what has been such a challenging time.

"It’s lovely recognition for everyone at the hospital and other emergency service partners."

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service station manager David Rutter: "We sponsored some hearts in the Rainbow earlier this year and I’m delighted to be here at this celebration today.

"It’s a really nice thing for the keyworkers of the whole country to remember what we’ve been through."

British Ironwork Centre's Clive Knowles: “I’m incredibly proud of the Rainbow and it’s really thrilling to see it in place and finished."

Praise from the hospital board

Over £40,000 has been raised by the Countess Charity via the Rainbow, which is adorned with thousands of multi-coloured hearts each representing individual donations.

This money is going towards the charity’s £500,000 Blue Skies Balcony Appeal for a new outdoor area next to the intensive care unit.

Dr Susan Gilby, chief executive, and Ian Haythornthwaite, chair, represented the Countess of Chester Hospital’s board of directors at the event, giving short speeches and meeting other guests afterwards.

She said: “I am delighted that the Duke of Westminster was able to join us on this special occasion. Addressing the challenges of the pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but I have been humbled to see the lengths to which our teams have gone to support and care for our patients and each other.

"The Rainbow stands to commemorate their compassion, dedication and skill not just in times of crisis but at all times.

"I would like to thank everyone who has purchased a heart to place on the Rainbow. As a result of their generosity more than £40,000 has been raised by the Countess Charity towards the Blue Skies Balcony Appeal.

"The appeal aims to provide a new outdoor area where critically ill patients can be taken to experience the benefits of fresh air and open space. It will have a stunning view towards the Welsh hills.

"There is plenty of evidence that such a facility reduces length of stay in critical care and improves mental wellbeing for both patients and staff on the unit."

Due to the ongoing implications of Covid, attendance at the outdoor event was limited but every member of staff at the Countess received an individually wrapped rainbow cupcake as part of the celebration.

Lesley Woodhead, head of fundraising at the Countess, said: "Living through the pandemic has been hard for all of us, but thanks to our keyworkers’ dedication we are getting through it.

"We wanted to create something to remember this time and I can’t thank the British Ironwork Centre and Medicash enough for making the Rainbow possible.

"It is also fitting that the Rainbow forms part of our Blue Skies Balcony Appeal, raising money to give intensive care patients easy access to outdoor facilities, which we know makes such a difference to their recovery."