BORIS Johnson has personally thanked staff at Russells Hall Hospital for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister has written to Diane Wake, chief executive of the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust which runs the hospital, to pay tribute to the staff's dedication and courage in dealing with coronavirus.

He also apologised for not visiting the hospital during his recent visit to Dudley, during which he made a key speech pledging to rebuild the nation's economy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, and pledged to visit soon.

Mr Johnson said the dedication of NHS staff was "second to none" and referenced his own battle with the virus, which saw him hospitalised and spend time in intensive care in April.

The Prime Minister said in the letter: "I was sorry I was not able to visit Russells Hall Hospital while I was in Dudley on 30 June, but I wanted to write to thank you and all your staff for everything that you are doing for your local community.

"The fight against COVID-19 is a truly global battle, against the deadliest threat this country has faced since the Second World War, but the NHS has risen to the occasion.

"I will always be grateful for what the doctors, nurses and other NHS staff did for me and are continuing to do for thousands of others during this difficult time. The dedication and bravery of our NHS workers caring selflessly for all of us is truly second to none.

"I know from your local Members of Parliament, Marco Longhi and Mike Wood, what a fantastic job the hospital is doing for the community in Dudley. I very much hope to have the chance to visit you when circumstances allow.

"In the meantime, please be assured of my thanks for all the hard work of your team."

Responding to the surprise letter, Diane Wake said: “The letter arrived totally out of the blue and is a lovely recognition of our wonderful staff, and all staff in the NHS, who have gone above and beyond with compassion and professionalism during the most difficult time we have ever experienced.

“I’m very grateful that the Prime Minister found the time to do this and we would be delighted to welcome him to our Trust so he can personally meet our teams and see the excellent work we continue to do for our community.

“I have been so impressed by all health colleagues in hospital, the community, primary care and mental health who worked together in partnership to tackle the biggest health crisis we have ever seen and this integrated way of working really is the way forward #OurFuture.

“We have received many, many cards and letters of thanks from the people of Dudley and they are displayed across the Trust but I have to say none of them came in such a prestigious envelope!”