A hospital was left deeply embarrassed after confidential details about the Duchess of Cambridge's health were revealed by a nurse who fell victim to a hoax call.
Two Australian radio DJs impersonated the Queen and the Prince of Wales to dupe staff into giving a condition update on Kate, who is suffering severe morning sickness.
John Lofthouse, chief executive of the private Edward VII Hospital, said he regretted the breach, but condemned the call as "journalistic trickery".
The presenters, from 2Day FM, remarked during their show how their efforts were the "easiest prank call ever made", as they put on mock British accents they later described as "terrible".
Mr Lofthouse said: "I think this whole thing is pretty deplorable. Our nurses are caring, professional people trained to look after patients, not to cope with journalistic trickery of this sort." He said there was no chance the Duchess could have received the call, adding: "Technically I think this was a breach of patient confidentiality, which I very much regret. Having said that, the information which was inadvertently revealed is already in the public domain."
William visited his wife for almost five hours on Wednesday and is likely to be angered by the intrusion into Kate's health, despite the call having a humorous rather than sinister motive.
The 2Day FM presenters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, later apologised for their actions as did their radio station. They made their call around 5.30am on Tuesday and were put through to a nurse on duty caring for the Duchess who told them: "She's sleeping at the moment and she has had an uneventful night and 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 added: "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 prank call will be deeply embarrassing for the Edward VII Hospital in central London, which is the medical institution of choice for the Royal Family. Mr Lofthouse said the hospital was considering whether to take action against the radio station. He added: "I've received advice that what the Australian broadcasters did may well have broken the law. On the other hand they've apologised for it so we're going to have a long and careful think about what, if anything, we do."
Kate was admitted to hospital on Monday after developing severe morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum. The condition can leave patients feeling tired, dizzy and suffering from headaches - all signs of dehydration. But it now appears she is responding to treatment and is likely to be having less severe bouts of vomiting.