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'Night shifts prepared me' says nurse who queued to see the Queen

Senior sister Laurie Street recalls moving experience attending Queen’s lying in state but other nurses share disappointment at being unable to attend
Senior sister Laurie Street and paramedic James Memory-Ferron

Senior sister Laurie Street recalls moving experience attending Queen’s lying in state but other nurses share disappointment at being unable to attend

An emergency nurse who queued for eight hours overnight to pay her respects to Queen Elizabeth II has shared how her night shifts gave her a good preparation for the long wait.

Senior sister Laurie Street joined the queue – then two and a half miles long – just before midnight on Wednesday night with her paramedic friend James Memory-Ferron to see the Queen’s coffin as she lies in state in London’s Westminster Hall, eventually leaving at 8.30am on Thursday.

Senior sister Laurie Street recalls moving experience attending Queen’s lying in state but other nurses share disappointment at being unable to attend

Senior sister Laurie Street and paramedic James Memory-Ferron
Senior sister Laurie Street and paramedic James Memory-Ferron

An emergency nurse who queued for eight hours overnight to pay her respects to Queen Elizabeth II has shared how her night shifts gave her a good preparation for the long wait.

Senior sister Laurie Street joined the queue – then two and a half miles long – just before midnight on Wednesday night with her paramedic friend James Memory-Ferron to see the Queen’s coffin as she lies in state in London’s Westminster Hall, eventually leaving at 8.30am on Thursday.

Senior sister Laurie Street and paramedic James Memory-Ferron

Ms Street, who works at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, told how the pair had travelled from the south west to view the flowers at Buckingham Palace, but on a whim decided to wait to pay their respects to Her Majesty personally, joining the queue near London Bridge.

‘I’ve always been a great admirer of the Queen. She gave 70 years’ service to our country, so the least I could do was give a few hours,’ Ms Street told Nursing Standard.

People in the queue sang to keep their spirits up during overnight cold – then became sombre and quiet at seeing Queen’s coffin

‘There were people of all ages – children, elderly people. Two people in front of us had travelled from Leeds and Leicester. It was really humbling.

‘We came prepared with bags full of snacks, and there were toilets and places to buy tea and coffee along the way, which was brilliant. I swapped my shifts so I could go. I think years of doing long shifts and night shifts definitely helped.’

The Queen, who died on 8 September at Balmoral Castle on Scotland, is lying in state at Westminster Hall to allow the public to pay their respects before her state funeral on Monday.

It is estimated that 750,000 people may visit in that time, with the queue reaching five miles long on Thursday.

But despite the long wait, Ms Street said she was glad she had made the journey. ‘Everyone was trying to keep their spirits up and there were people behind us getting songs going,’ she added.

QNI nurse Rebecca Daniels picture

‘There was a point when it got really cold, word got down from the front that they’d closed the hall temporarily for cleaning, and morale was low. That’s when we saw a seal pup swimming in the Thames and morale lifted again.

‘It was very sombre and quiet when we entered the chamber. When we went past it was actually very moving. I’m really glad we did it.’

But while Ms Street was able to pay her respects, other nurses have shared disappointment that they will not be able to make it. Many work long shifts and may not be able to get the time off to attend.

Jovial mood in a queue that was 4.5 miles long

QNI nurse Rebecca Daniels

Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) nurse Rebecca Daniels also visited Westminster Hall along with her two sisters to pay her respects to Her Majesty.

She said: ‘It was an incredible experience from start to finish. The queue was 4.5 miles long but moved fairly rapidly at the beginning, the mood was jovial across those waiting, providing a chance to catch up, meet new people and reflect together.

QNI nurse Rebecca Daniels picture‘I wore my Queen's Nurses badge with pride, which triggered lovely conversations about the award itself, and our commitment to delivering excellent care to community patients across the lifespan and different community roles.

‘This also included dispelling the myth about whether we will become "Kings Nurses" and clarifying we will indeed remain as Queen's Nurses.'

Are you going to visit the Queen's lying in state before her funeral on Monday? You can share your experience of the queue and Westminster Hall by emailing news@rcni.com or visiting us on Twitter at @NurseStandard


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