A Chorley GP-turned councillor says that she is honoured to have been shortlisted for a “best doctor” award – six years after she retired from the NHS frontline.
Margaret France triumphed over almost 3,000 other medics to make the final three in the category at the “Who Cares Wins” awards in recognition of her 30 years’ service in the village of Brinscall.
But her nomination was actually sparked by the work she continues to do in the area, both as a Chorley borough councillor and a former GP who is still fondly remembered – and relied upon – by the local community.
Louise Eaton, 29, was a patient of Dr France from an early age. When she needed help to support her brother James – who has a rare genetic condition – in his application for disability benefits, she immediately thought of her family’s former doctor.
“James had his Personal Independence Payment (PIP) stopped completely and we were appealing against the decision,” Louise recalls.
“Margaret spoke on our behalf during the hearing and was with us every step of the way, which was so reassuring. James ended up having his PIP reinstated at a higher level – and all the missed payments were backdated.
“Margaret is just one of those people who genuinely wants to help others – and everybody who grew up in the village knows her.”
Coun France, as she is now known in her capacity as Wheelton and Withnell ward councillor, says that she feels “a fraud” in comparison to the NHS workers in the “under-staffed, under-resourced” health service which she left behind in 2013. And although she missed out on the main gong in the category in which she was nominated, she used her shortlisting to pay tribute to the dedication of NHS staff.
“The NHS heroes are those people working 12-hour shifts, week in and week out, as doctors, nurses, porters and all those other staff – sometimes unseen and unrecognised. I speak to staff who reduce their fluid intake on shift because they can’t guarantee time for a comfort break, let alone for a meal.
“There are theatre staff who work overtime to complete the day’s list even though that means they can’t get to their cars parked offsite and locked down.
“I’m grateful for the people who nominated me. I consider myself blessed to have had a free state education and a decent living from the NHS, in a job that I loved,” adds the 63-year-old, who was also recently called upon to assist with a birth, until the midwife arrived.
Dr France qualified from the Manchester Medical School in 1978, won a place on the GP training scheme of the time and then joined Withnell Health Centre in 1983 – where she stayed for just over 30 years. She also spent time as director of the then local out-of-hours GP provider in the 2000s.