Nurse Neal Aplin looked after some of the earliest victims of the coronavirus in Swindon.

He was working on a geriatric ward when the pandemic started and saw how quickly patients deteriorated when the disease attacked them.

It prompted him to record what he was seeing and submit it to an international medical journal so other professionals could learn from his experience.

Now he has made history by becoming the first at the Great Western Hospital to be recognised for his skill by the Royal College of Nursing as an advanced level nurse.

Neil, who started training in 1999, said: “It was a really important milestone for me and it’s driven me to just continue to drive up those standards and help others.”

He has worked at the hospital for the past five years and found himself in the frontline of the battle against the virus.

“Shortly before I was working on one of the older persons wards at the start of the pandemic I had to manage coronavirus patients.

“We had a few people who had Covid when it all really kicked off.

“It was very challenging, no one could prepare for it. It was a very career defining moment but we’ve tried our best to help.

“I did notice how quickly older people deteriorated with this virus and I decided to log what I was leaning and I sent it to the International Journal of Older People Nursing which got published, that was amazing.”

The advanced clinical practitioner said: “It has been hard work but from a team point of view, everyone pulled together to fight the biggest public health emergency that the NHS has ever had to face."

“There was a lot of comradery and team spirit of being all in it together.”

At the moment Neal is nursing patients in their own homes, providing end-of-life care and medication, managing their symptoms and ensuring they are as comfortable as possible.

“That’s not been without its challenges. I have looked after patients with cancer and some patients who have complex medical problems," he said.

“It really pulls on your heartstrings, you have to have compassion because you have to have difficult conversations with the patients. But it has also been rewarding.”

Announcing Neal's award The GWH foundation trust said on social media: We are so proud of Neal for this achievement, particularly as he has been working so hard over recent months to support on the frontline with our fight against COVID-19.

"This credential is richly deserved."