Selfless Chorley GP comes out of retirement to help Preston COVID vaccination effort

If you’re having a COVID jab soon, you might be in the capable hands of retired GP Dr Clive Barker who has been volunteering in Preston.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 3:45 pm
Dr Cliver Barker, photographed by Mark Waugh.

Since January, the 61-year-old has been giving COVID vaccines in a temporary marquee outside the Ryan Medical Centre, Bamber Bridge.

Speaking to MDDUS Insight Primary Magazine's Jim Killgore, Dr Barker said: “Patients really want to be there.

"In fact they are ever so grateful; it’s humbling.

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Dr Clive Barker has come out of retirement to help with the COVID-19 vaccination effort, photographer by Mark Waugh.

"There’s a really good vibe and the time goes very quickly.”

The doctor works alongside other volunteers several days a week.

"The lady I was working with one day was a retired university admissions officer," said Dr Clive.

"There are also volunteers making nice warming cups of tea because it does get a bit cool, even with the heaters.”

In a truly selfless act, Dr Barker is unpaid for his vaccination sessions at the Ryan Medical Centre.

"I would want any money to go back into the NHS or to people who need it more than I do,” he said.

“I’ve been very lucky with my NHS career, I’ve been well paid and I’m on a good NHS pension."

In March 2020, just before the first lockdown, Clive received a letter from the General Medical Council (GMC) calling on all doctors who had 'retired in good standing' since 2017 to come forward and help with COVID-19 efforts.

Doctors like Clive were granted free medical registration and a licence so they could help during the pandemic.

“I felt I had a moral duty to do it,” said Clive, “Seeing what was going on with exhausted colleagues in both primary care and in hospitals, I felt if I could do something that meant that they would be free to get on with their other good work then I should do it.

"Being able to help the community again is a real privilege.”

Originally, Dr Barker volunteered for NHS 111 but did not feel confident in the job.

"For me personally, the clinical IT back-up was not something I felt confident with," he said.

"The idea of being in my study at home on the phone to somebody say in Cornwall, whose history I don’t know, and where I don’t know the local services, and advising them about their possible coronavirus symptoms and then losing the call or getting cut off – that would have worried me greatly.”

After going for a daily walk with a friend and clinical director, Clive inquired about volunteering as a vaccinator.

At the start of the process, he took lessons in COVID-19 vaccination, vaccine administration, vaccine storage, management of anaphylaxis and adult basic life support.

Clive says he was 'not at all' worried about the risks of being involved because 'the benefits to the community hugely outweigh any personal risk'.

“We are wearing masks; we are aware of the guidelines," said the doctor.

"My family were very supportive about the decision to go back.”

Clive has received his vaccines alongside other essential healthcare staff.

“I can see the immunisation programme going on for most of this year at least," he said, "and I would imagine I will do perhaps two or three sessions a week for as long as I’m needed.”

Clive worked as a GP for 31 years and was a partner at a Chorley practice before retiring in 2017.

“I enjoyed general practice tremendously but was finding it increasingly hard work," he said.

"I don’t mind hard work but I was often doing 13-hour days, 60-plus hour weeks.

"I felt I wanted to finish while I was still well enough to practice – what I hoped to think was – very good medicine.”

The doctor developed health issues of his own but did not completely retire until 2019.

He spent several years teaching undergraduate medical students and imparting his knowledge from over 30 years of general practice.

“It was strange not working to the same degree but great to spend time with my wife and travel and exercise more.

"I ran the London Marathon in 2019 at the age of 60.

"Friends and colleagues and former patients kindly sponsored me on behalf of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which my mum died from some years ago.”

Doctor Clive said that the pandemic could have been handled better by government and thinks that the 'NHS was not adequately prepared'.

"After a decade of relative under-funding of health and social care, we were vulnerable – particularly with the public health role having been diminished along with the number of hospital beds," he said.

“Nobody was going to get it right first time but, really, giving contracts to private contractors, many of them with no real experience of healthcare... I think that’s a worry.

"One of the reasons the vaccination service has done so well is because it’s been entrusted to the NHS.”

MDDUS, the Medical & Dental Defence Union of Scotland, provides legal help to healthcare professionals across the UK.

The company is helping retired healthcare professionals back into the field to help combat COVID-19,

Chief executive Chris Kenny said: “It is testament to clinicians’ desire to help that so many, like our member Dr Barker, have returned from retirement to support the vaccination programme.

“Throughout the pandemic, MDDUS has been determined to make it as simple as possible for retired doctors to return to clinical practice.

“Now that that the vaccination programme is well underway, we continue to support our members as they steer us through this important effort against Covid-19.”

You can read the full interview with Dr Clive Barker at the MDDUS website.