Lancashire politician returns to nursing to join the coronavirus battle

A senior Lancashire county councillor is heading back to the NHS frontline to help in the fight against coronavirus.

Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 8:47 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 8:50 pm
County Cllr John Fillis is returning to the wards after five years away

John Fillis, deputy leader of the Labour opposition group at County Hall, is returning to work as a nurse after answering the call for former NHS staff to come out of retirement as the outbreak threatens to put services under strain.

The 60-year-old politician retired back in 2015, after 35 years’ service, much of it working in mental health. It is to that specialism he will return, but now with the added complication of dealing with coronavirus.

County Cllr Fillis says that he had to heed the appeal for help from a health service to which he had dedicated most of his working life.

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“When I retired, I knew I was ready to go – but when this crisis hit, I think all of us who have left felt that we had to ask ourselves if we were good enough to go back.

“It’s a physically and emotionally demanding job and we’ll be returning at a time when the NHS is going through something that it’s never seen before.

“I considered whether I could make a positive difference and decided that I could be of use,” said County Cllr Fillis, who was the county’s cabinet member for highways during the last Labour administration.

He added that his family were sanguine about his decision – “they knew I’d do it anyway” – and that he has told his bosses that he is prepared to travel to wherever he is needed most.

County Cllr Fillis also praised the speed at which the NHS has moved to ready itself for what are feared to be the difficult months ahead. He was re-registered as a nurse within days of applying and having an interview over the phone – and even received a call of thanks from the deputy chief nurse at training agency Health Education England.

He will now undertake a refresher course to be introduced to the latest techniques and could be back on the wards within days, working for the Mersey Care NHS trust, which runs the facility formerly known as Calderstones in Whalley.

“I’d encourage anybody who is thinking of doing the same thing to have a look into it – but there are a lot of former nurses who are now vulnerable themselves or are caring for somebody who is, so nobody should be looked on any differently if they decide that they can’t come back.

“There are plenty of heroes playing their part in this right across society – like people working in supermarkets or as cleaners and those who have made the decision to work from home. It really feels like Team UK.”

County Cllr Fillis has initially been re-registered for six months, but has said he will stay for as long as necessary. His only fear? That first-day-at-school feeling which he is expecting to have when he walks back through the doors.

“I’ll be there with my little butty bag,” he laughed, before giving a message of hope to the people of Lancashire.

“The county is pulling together and everybody has been absolutely fantastic so far – and we’ll get there.”