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Go Back Retired health workers return to NHS in the North West

"It feels great to be back. I'm enjoying it and the team have been so helpful... I'm doing what I love most, looking after patients." Emma Bird, Registered Nurse Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Around 1,500 former health staff from across the North West have come forward to return to the NHS in response to the call to support the coronavirus effort.

during the initial phase of the Covid-19 crisis, colleagues here at the NHS North West Leadership Academy were deployed alongside members of Health Education England North West and NHS England to lead the Bringing Back Staff (BBS) recruitment campaign in the North West.

Thanks to the hard work of the BBS team, workers who had previously retired or left their profession, have been offered for deployment to a number of hospitals in the region, as well as the NHS 111 service and other health and care services. Hundreds are already back in work, with others on standby if needed.

The returning workforce include more than 500 medics, 500 nurses and almost 400 other health workers who come under the title of Allied Health Professionals (AHPs). AHPs include occupational therapists, operating department practitioners, paramedics, physiotherapists, diagnostic and therapeutic radiographers, and speech and language therapists.

Returners undertook an e-learning programme of induction, mandatory training and upskilling specific to their profession developed by Health Education England.

NHS North West Regional Director Bill McCarthy commended the commitment and spirit of those who have come forward, adding:

“We have been overwhelmed by the response from former NHS staff in our region and want to say a massive thank you to all those who are already deployed or awaiting placement in one of our organisations.

“Many organisations in the North West will now be able to benefit from their skills and years of experience. It is an encouraging sign that we have not yet needed to call upon all those who came forward, but it is extremely reassuring to know that they are there to support the NHS in our region.

“Everyone can do their bit to help with this effort by continuing to stay at home as much as possible and washing hands regularly.”


Consultant Physician Dr John Horsley

Dr John Horsley

Dr Horsley, 66, last worked at the Royal Liverpool as a medical registrar in 1980 and is now a consultant geriatrician for Liverpool University Hospital’s new stepdown facility for patients.

Based within the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital, the state-of-the-art unit opened at the beginning of May.

Before returning to the Liverpool hospital, Dr Horsley was on a working holiday as a locum in Whangarei, New Zealand, where he heard the call of the NHS Bringing Back Staff recruitment campaign.

“We were lucky to get back to the UK, we had a few cancelled and rebooked flights due to the pandemic – we got out just in time. I actually filled in the forms relaxing beside a swimming pool in Bali!” said Dr Horsley, who left the Royal Liverpool to take a research fellowship in Canada in 1981.

After returning and completing his training in the UK, he began a consultant post in Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust in 1987 before taking early retirement from the NHS in 2014.

Dr Horsley said: "I couldn't sit back; we've got a big family and we have to face it could happen to anybody. I'm very conscious of the fact it's not without its risks but it's my intent to stay safe for all of us on the unit. It's a sense of duty and I'm lucky to be fit and well.

"It has been great to be involved with the new stepdown facility from the start, it truly is phenomenal what has been achieved in such a short space of time. I've had a role in setting up, planning and developing the unit, whilst also supporting the training programme. It's been a real pleasure being a part of it and my wife is pleased as it has kept me busy during the current lockdown restrictions!"

Nurse Emma Bird

Emma Bird

Emma, who previously worked as an ICU nurse at Wythenshawe Hospital, has been working as an Advanced Aesthetic Practitioner and Independent Nurse Prescriber, running her own Aesthetic clinic and teaching at an Aesthetics Academy in Liverpool.

She decided to return to the NHS to support her colleagues.

Emma said: “It feels great to be back. Everyone is amazing and I’ve got everything I need. I’m doing what I love most looking after patients.

“Despite being anxious coming back, I’m enjoying it and the team have been so helpful. A lot has changed since I left so I’m undergoing various training.”

Consultant Medical Microbiologist, Dr Richard Cooke

Dr Richard Cooke

He previously worked there from 2014-17 as a Consultant Medical Microbiologist and Director of Infection Prevention Control, retiring in 2017 following 38 years working in the NHS.

In retirement, Dr Cooke was still connected to the hospital’s Innovation department’s hand hygiene project and he also spent time volunteering in schools and charities.

Dr Cooke, said: “I could not sit back when the call for retired doctors to return to the NHS was made.

“Switching back into my previous role as a Consultant Medical Microbiologist has been surprisingly straightforward. My colleagues have been very appreciative and supportive.”

Whilst his fellow consultant in the team deals with the COVID-19 workload, Dr Cooke is supervising the microbiology diagnostic service and involved in multi-disciplinary meetings, especially in critical care.

Nurse Rachel Eaton

Rachel Eaton

Rachel, who previously worked in General Practice as a Treatment Room Nurse, practice, retired from the NHS in December 2019.

She said: “I’m proud to be back in uniform and enjoying the back to work routine. It was the right thing to do, I couldn’t think of our already hard-working nurses struggling with demand whilst I sat back and did nothing, so I wanted to help.”

“The team have been so grateful and supportive, I’m glad I went back.”

Healthcare Assistant Marie McDougall

Marie McDougall

Marie, 60, who lives in Prescot, Merseyside, had previously worked for St Helen’s and Knowsley NHS Trust for 27 years.

Marie’s experiences of the Covid-19 outbreak have affected her both personally and professionally.

She said: ‘“I work as a runner, helping to prepare vital ICU equipment for treating patients. I’ve been really busy since I came back, but it’s been great to keep my hand in and help the best way I can. The team are really pulling together and there’s such a sense of teamwork. Everyone’s marvellous.

‘We all check in with one another, and I know that if I need to, I can talk to them. All I’d need to do is pick up the phone and they’d be there for me.”

Marie’s story is even more extraordinary in that she is currently living apart from her husband, who is shielding himself at home.

“My husband is in ill health. A few years ago I donated a kidney to him, which sadly didn’t work, but his second transplant attempt has been more successful. His recovery has been complicated though and three years on he’s still very vulnerable if he catches an infection.

“So the NHS arranged for me to stay in a local hotel to help keep him protected. The hotel managers are lovely and will help with anything need. It can be tough being on my own, especially when the weather is not so good, but it’s what I need to do for now.”

Marie adds: “It’s difficult to hear that people are gathering outside and meeting up with each other, when you see how poorly the patients are on ICU. I just want to tell everyone to stay home.”



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