An NHS doctor working on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic has been crowned the longest serving Miss England in the competition’s 92 year history.
Dr Bhasha Mukherjee, 24, from Derby, will hold onto her Miss England crown for longer than expected after COVID-19 meant the 2020 beauty contest had to be postponed.
It means she will have held the title for 20 months by the time a new winner is announced, the longest anyone has held it 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.
Since then she has been working to help save lives during the pandemic at Boston Pilgrim Hospital in Lincolnshire and Derby Royal Hospital.
Dr Mukherjee has managed to fulfil her Miss England duties online, while fitting in 12 hour shifts on a coronavirus ward. She said she is delighted to continue her reign.
“It's an honour to continue serving my country during the COVID pandemic as well as being able to do it as Miss England,” she said.
“There’s no better time for me to be Miss England while helping [the country] during this time of need.
“It has been tough for everyone.”
Dr Mukherjee said while she was doing her charity work abroad, her thoughts turned to returning home and helping her 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,” she said
And though Dr Mukherjee feels it is a shame the Miss England contest was postponed again, she’s thrilled 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,” she said.
“It has certainly 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 can be tricky - but I think I've managed to find the balance.”
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Dr Mukherjee was born in Kolkata but moved to England when she was nine and later graduated in medicine from the University of Nottingham.
She has embarked on a fundraising campaign for the Hope Foundation to raise money for children living on the streets in Kolkata.
She has also been encouraging doctors and nurses to take part in daily fitness challenges and posting the results on social media.
“It’s great to do something fun if we only have a ten minute break just to give us respite from this horrible virus, but sometimes we don’t even have time to eat,” she said.
“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.”
The finals of the prestigious contest were due to take place in Birmingham the last week of October, but were recently postponed due to coronavirus.
Commenting on Dr Mukherjee’s extended reign, Miss England organiser Angie Beasley 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, particularly after the recent government announcements.
“Hopefully the next date for the final will be third time lucky.”
The Miss England final date is now planned for 16-17 April 2021 in Birmingham.
In total, 24 finalists from across the country will compete, having won their places by submitting videos during lockdown.
So far Miss England contestants have raised more than £30,000 for the charities Beauty with a Purpose and Tree Planting Pledges.
Additional reporting SWNS.