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The royal family is reported to be "furious" after the London hospital treating Prince William's pregnant wife Kate for severe morning sickness fell for a prank call from an Australian radio station.
Hospital staff gave out personal details about the Duchess of Cambridge, who was admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in central London on Monday suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, very acute morning sickness which causes severe nausea and vomiting.
Two presenters from the Australian 2Day radio station called the hospital pretending to be William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth and his father, the heir-to-the throne Prince Charles.
Despite putting on unconvincing impressions of the royal duo, they were put through to the ward where Kate is being treated and given intimate details about how she was faring.
"She is sleeping at the moment and she has had an uneventful night," a flustered-sounding nurse told the presenters, who called in the early hours of Tuesday morning (local time).
"Sleep is good for her. She's been given some fluids to rehydrate her because she was quite dehydrated when she came in. But she's stable at the moment."
The nurse tells the duo that they would be welcome to come and visit after 9am when Kate has been "freshened up".
"She hasn't had any retching with me since I've been on duty and she has been sleeping on and off. I think it's difficult sleeping in a strange bed as well."
The hospital confirmed the hoax call had been made and it deeply regretted the incident. It added that there was no way such a call would have been put through to a patient.
"This was a foolish prank call that we all deplore," John Lofthouse, the hospital's chief executive said in a statement. "We take patient confidentiality extremely seriously and we are now reviewing our telephone protocols."
The Sun said the call had "caused a right royal fury", and The Daily Mail said the Palace was "furious".
Royal officials had declined to comment, but Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former press secretary who worked at Buckingham Palace for 12 years, told the Mail: "This is a shocking breach of security.
"The Royal Family have been clients of the King Edward VII Hospital for many, many years and it simply beggars belief that a member of the public could call up and obtain details of the Duchess' medical condition in this way.
"Where on Earth were the checks and balances? The hospital will be livid at what has happened and I am sure the palace will be demanding answers. There will be fireworks over this, for sure."
The radio station involved in the prank had been reprimanded in in 2009 after a girl aged 14 was attached to a lie detector and pushed into revealing live on air that she had been raped, the Daily Mail said.
A spokesman for the station later apologised for the "inconvenience" caused by the call.
He said: "2Day FM sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused by the enquiry to Kate's hospital. The radio segment was done with the best intentions and we wish Kate and her family all the best."
The station is owned by Southern Cross Austereo, an Australian media group formed in a merger last year that had a collection of TV and radio brands, and claims to be able to connect with 95 per cent of Australians every week.
The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast in Sydney.
The radio duo - Mel Greig and Michael Christian - said in a statement today: "We were very surprised that our call was put through. We thought we’d be hung up on as soon as they heard our terrible accents.
"We're very sorry if we’ve caused any issues and we're glad to hear that Kate is doing well."
The call came after Prince William felt able to smile for the first time in more than 24 hours when he left his wife's beside last night after a six-hour vigil.
Kate was said to be feeling better, but would continue to receive treatment for the next few days.
St James' Palace said yesterday: "The Duchess of Cambridge is continuing to feel better. She and the duke are immensely grateful for the good wishes they have received.
"She will remain in hospital at present and will continue to be treated for hyperemesis gravidarum."
The condition the duchess had been diagnosed with could last for the first five months of pregnancy, and sometimes for all of it. She was believed to be only eight weeks pregnant.
- Reuters and Stuff