The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met a hospital’s new four-legged recruit when they visited to thank staff for their work throughout the pandemic.

William and Kate made friends with 10-week-old cockapoo Alfie at Clitheroe Community Hospital after travelling to Lancashire on Thursday.

The pup, who licked William’s cheek, will be trained to support patients and colleagues at the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust alongside therapy dog Jasper.

Kate described the pup as “so sweet” but, after enjoying a cuddle, added: “Our dog is going to be very upset.”

The couple also met GPs, nurses, and patients at the hospital.

William told staff: “We’re so grateful for all your hard work.

“I’m not sure there are enough words to say how grateful everyone is for what you have done.”

He said he had a particular affinity with staff because of his time as an air ambulance pilot.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet new ‘therapy puppy’ Alfie
The new therapy dog was funded through charitable donations (James Glossop/The Times/PA)

Lisa Kay, intensive home support service clinical lead, said: “That was great to hear because it’s not every day you get a royal visit to say thank you.

“It has been a huge morale boost.”

Patient Bill Taylor, 94, was asked by the royals about the care he had received at the hospital and joked: “They’re trying their best but there’s some awkward buggers.”

The retired policeman praised the hospital food, telling the couple he had a “grand” meat and potato pie for his lunch.

He said: “We all enjoy ourselves up here.

“But we’d like you to come up more often.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to the Clitheroe Community Hospital in Lancashire
The royals spoke to staff and patients during their trip to east Lancashire (James Glossop/The Times/PA)

He pointed out Pendle Hill, seen from the window of his ward, and told them: “The kids would enjoy it.”

The duke and duchess, who are joint royal patrons of NHS Charities Together, heard how support from hospital charity ELHT&Me had helped staff at the trust, which is in one of the areas of the country worst affected by Covid-19.

A grant of more than £300,000 from NHS Charities Together, following the public response to its Covid-19 Urgent Appeal, allowed the charity to fund equipment and infrastructure for the staff wellbeing team, as well as the new therapy dog.

Director of operations Catriona Logan said the duchess was “really interested” to know how the pandemic had been for staff.

She said: “We talked about how difficult it was for patients and families being separated by visiting restrictions.

“She was really engaging.”

Professor Eileen Fairhurst, trust chairwoman, added: “It was really uplifting for our staff; a real morale boost that their work has been recognised by this high profile visit, and it’s testament to the hard work and commitment of all our colleagues in the trust in the real challenges and difficulties we have faced since the pandemic.

“We have been hardest hit in this part of the country and it has really not gone away.”