A hero NHS doctor fighting on the frontline against the coronavirus pandemic has been crowned the longest serving Miss England in the competition’s 92 year history.
Dr Bhasha Mukherjee, 24, will continue with her reign as Miss England for another year after Covid-19 scuppered the 2020 beauty contest.
It means she will have retained the crown for 20 months by the time a new winner is announced – the longest anyone has held the title for since 1928.
The junior doctor was originally named Miss England in July 2019 and began travelling the world to carry out charity work as part of her victory.
But she cut short her stay in India to answer the Government’s call for retired and junior doctors to return to the frontline in April.
She has since been working tirelessly to help save lives during the pandemic at Boston Pilgrim Hospital in Lincolnshire and Derby Royal Hospital.
Bhasha, of Derby, admits working on an accident and emergency ward during the pandemic has been a far cry from the glitz and glamour of beauty pageants.
She has still managed to fulfil her Miss England duties online while fitting in 12 hour shifts on a coronavirus ward and says she is delighted to continue he reign.
She said: “It’s an honour to continue serving my country during the Covid pandemic as well as being able to do it as Miss England.
“There’s no better time for me to be Miss England and helping England at a time of need.
“It has been a tough time for everyone and when I was doing my charity work abroad I wanted to be back home helping my colleagues.
“I’ve still been doing plenty of charity work remotely and being able to do that and serve the nation at the same time has been really special.
“It’s a shame the Miss England contest was postponed again but I’m delighted to be their longest serving winner.
“It’s bitter-sweet in a way as the circumstances aren’t ideal, it’s hard to celebrate when you’re seeing Covid numbers rising in your hospital.
“We are right next to Nottingham which has the highest rate in the country so we have staff and patients coming between us and the hub of the virus.
“In the summer we had far fewer positive Covid cases – but now suddenly it is a different story.
“We’re seeing more asymptomatic patients testing positive and more people coming in for different problems who turn out to have the virus.
“That can be quite concerning for the hospital because it was sudden and we were not prepared when the tests were coming back positive.
“You didn’t realise that when they were exposed to other patients when they were sitting in the waiting room together.
“It is daunting because you always worry about your vulnerable patients being exposed to the virus.
“This week there was a man who was immunocompromised and he was admitted at the same time as a woman who tested positive and they were in the same room – but the hospital struggles to find single rooms for people.
“If cases grow as they did early this year it may be that surgery and even cancer treatment is cancelled and we all transfer to Covid wards.
“It has been a challenging time, I’m in the urological surgery department as well as the Covid ward and I’ve just finished a seven day week working 12 hours shifts.
“Juggling that with Miss England duties is tricky – but I think I’ve managed to find the balance.”
Bhasha was born in Kolkata but moved to England when she was nine and later graduated in medicine from the University of Nottingham.
This week, she has embarked on a fundraising campaign for the Hope Foundation to raise money for children living on the street in her home town.
She has been getting doctors and nurses to take part in daily fitness challenges and posting the results on social media.
Bhasha added: “It’s great to do something fun if we only have a ten minute break just to give us respite from this horrible virus. Sometimes we don’t even have time to eat.
“As it comes to the end of summer and people are feeling depressed with another lockdown looming, we’re trying to have a nice time with the fitness challenges.
“The Hope Foundation operates to raise money for the homeless in India and as a South Asian Miss England this is very important to me.”
Miss England organiser Angie Beasley recently postponed the finals of the prestigious contest due to take place in Birmingham the last week of October .
She said: ““Bhasha Mukherjee has already been an exceptional Miss England and I’m delighted she will continue with her reign.
“Not only has she served her country as an NHS doctor throughout the pandemic, she has also brought a diverse feel to the contest due to her heritage which truly reflects England today.
“The Miss England final was initially planned for July 2020 but due to the pandemic it was then postponed to October.
“After Miss World announced they are postponing the 70th final until at least Autumn 2021 we decided to reschedule again especially after the recent government announcements.
“Hopefully the next date for the final will be third time lucky. “
The next Miss England final date has now been moved for the third time and is now planned for April 16-17 next year in Birmingham.
In total 24 finalists from across the country will compete – having won their crowns by submitting videos during lockdown.
So far Miss England contestants have raised over £30,000 for the charities Beauty with a Purpose and Tree Planting Pledges.