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The NHS retirees who returned to vaccinate England

Time and date:2010-12-5 17:23:32  author:Press center4   source:Press center4  view:  comment:0
Content summary:Former NHS workers describe what motivated them to return for the Covid vaccination programme. 1010

Thousands of retired NHS workers answered an urgent call by the government to go back to work as the Covid-19 pandemic threatened to overwhelm hospitals. Two years on, many of them are still there. The BBC spoke to some about their unwavering need to help.

Elaine Millership, 62, was looking for a slower pace of life to spend more time with her grandchildren and elderly parents after decades as a community staff nurse.

But as the pandemic began to spread across the world, she was "absolutely horrified" to watch it unfold on television.

"I couldn't sit at home watching that, knowing I had all these skills," she said.

"I really felt like 'I can do this. Let me have it.'"

Mrs Millership is one of about 10,000 former workers who signed up to help and are continuing to work in the NHS as the country prepares for another surge of Covid cases this winter.

Her first role was vaccinating care home residents before working at a centre in Bedworth for the Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust (CWPT).

"The atmosphere there was like something I can't describe," said Mrs Millership, from Tamworth, Staffordshire.

"It was very quiet but sort of with an excitement going on. It was like, 'we've got this, we're going to get through this'," she said.

"I never ever dreamt in a billion years I'd be ever part of anything like that, I thought I'd retired and that was the end for me. In my career I didn't think I'd have another job doing something so incredible.

"I just think it's going to be wild - I can tell my grandchildren 'I vaccinated in the pandemic and I was there'. I did that."

Majella Johnston, from Leicestershire, said she too came forward after hearing about "so much pressure" in the NHS.

The 60-year-old had worked as a nurse and neonatal nurse for 38 years.

"We thought it would last a few months and here we are, two years down the line," she said.

Witnessing the fast pace of change within the vaccine programme had been a "real eye-opener".

"It's been a very interesting piece of work with some great opportunities for learning. I never dreamed that before the pandemic it would pan out as it has, and that I'd be working the way I am now.

"I've met some fantastic people and seen some new ways of working," she added.

"And it shows that age doesn't matter. People do have the skills, energy and lots to offer even after retirement."

Jane Williams, 75, had worked in the NHS for 50 years and said she had always kept busy in her retirement. She didn't hesitate to volunteer when the call came.

Initially just "checking in and chatting to people," she said she soon saw she could play a bigger role.

"A friend told me she was going to start doing some vaccinations and I thought, well, that's really quite a good idea," she said.

The former health visitor, who had risen to become head of children, young people and family services for Warwickshire before retiring in 2015, said the return to nursing had been "just wonderful".

"I'm really tired, but I just feel so fulfilled in doing it - it's a bit addictive," she said.

Early mornings had been a "killer" she added, "but I get so much out of it that it doesn't really matter".

She explained she had now worked over 1,000 hours and completed many hours of training - sufficient to regain her permanent nursing registration.

Working for the Kenilworth and Warwick Primary Care Network as well as the CWPT she said she had carried out vaccinations in centres across the county, schools, care homes, as well as visiting those who are housebound.

"I absolutely love doing that because you have a bit more time to spend and talk to them," she added.

Angela Courtney, 61, had been working in the private sector in disability services in the Channel Islands but but had moved back to Knowle in the West Midlands to support her father.

She applied to get involved to "give something back to the NHS" and is now a clinical supervisor.

"I went back with the intention of not doing any more nursing, I'm not going to be a nurse - I'm going to be a vaccinator," she said.

"As soon as I started I could see I could support the services with my skills," she said, and her bosses had "twisted my arm" to start nursing again, applying for her registration to be extended.

"I've had this rejuvenation. So now I'm able to continue nursing until I retire."

The vaccination programme had enabled people to come back and "experience the joy of nursing and leave with a sense of fulfilment," Mrs Courtney added.

"Its been like a family in some ways for some of us, people have benefitted from that experience.

"I don't think people have had that I don't think in many areas of nursing."

Retired dentist John Addy, 55, from Balsall Common, lost his father to Covid during the pandemic, so the motivation to volunteer was "a very personal one".

He initially started doing the "odd session" at a vaccination site in Bedworth, and then "one thing led to another".

He now works full-time as a site manager at CWPT sites across Warwickshire.

"One of the things that attracted me to take on more shifts initially was the people were just so friendly and focused and willing to go the extra mile," said Mr Addy.

He describes there being a "real sense of camaraderie" amongst the team.

"Having lost dad to Covid, you know actually doing a job where I was minimizing other people's risk of that happening was a really strong motivating factor for me."

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