Nursing colleagues rally to fundraise for Royal Free Covid-fighting bank nurse who was diagnosed with leukaemia

Neri Pucci, a Royal Free nurse who was diagnosed with leukaemia, with his mum during treatment. Curr

Neri Pucci, a Royal Free nurse who was diagnosed with leukaemia, with his mum during treatment. Currently a bank nurse, he is not eligible for sick pay. Picture: Neri Pucci - Credit: Archant

Nursing staff at the Royal Free have rallied around a friend and colleague who was diagnosed with leukaemia but, because he was working as a bank nurse, is unable to get sick pay while he is treated.

Florence-born Neri Pucci, 28, came to England from Italy in 2014 to work in the NHS, and after “a couple of years” at the Whittington, he moved to work at the Royal Free’s emergency department where he stayed until he decided to take a sabbatical to work on a cruise ship in June 2019.

Although Covid-19 stranded Neri on the ship for a couple of months, he returned to the UK in May and went straight back to the Pond Street hospital to help with the fight against coronavirus as a bank nurse.

He was hoping to reapply for a staff job at the hospital later in the year, but sadly in July he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia – and bank nurses are not eligible for sick pay as they are able to choose which shifts they take.

READ MORE: Protester climbs Euston crane in anti-HS2 hunger strike Friends including Miguel Montenegro, who worked with Neri at the Whittington before moving with him to the Royal Free, launched a crowdfunding drive to help pay Neri’s rent while he is having chemotherapy and , if that is successful, waiting for a bone marrow donor.

Neri lives alone in Highbury. He told this newspaper: “Obviously the treatment has been tough, and quite invasive. I was diagnosed in July and it’s been tough.”

He said that he was suffering from fatigue, and initially thought he may have coronavirus – but a Covid test came back negative and then after struggling on at work, a blood test revealed a hugely elevated white blood cell count: leukaemia.

Neri added: “I was working and started to feel more unwell, and I started having a few tests, I realised I wasn’t able to look after anyone else at that point.”

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Miguel added: “We have known each other for the past five or six years. We’re all desperate for him to get into remission so he can go on the list for a bone marrow transplant. He’s been a member of NHS staff for a long time and he came back here to help fight Covid. He deserves help, and we need to help him to pay his rent and get through the next six months.”

To contribute to the crowdfunder, which has raised £15,000 of an £18,000 target, visit