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‘I still had something to give’ – retired nurse back on hospital frontline

PUBLISHED: 06:58 31 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:38 31 March 2020

Claire Roberts, who previously worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and has returned to fight coronavirus. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Claire Roberts, who previously worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and has returned to fight coronavirus. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2013

An experienced nurse who retired from a Norfolk hospital in 2018 after a 40-year career has returned to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Claire Roberts, centre, pictured when she retired in 2018 with former chief nurse officer Emma Hardwick and former deputy chief nurse Val Newton  Picture: QEHClaire Roberts, centre, pictured when she retired in 2018 with former chief nurse officer Emma Hardwick and former deputy chief nurse Val Newton Picture: QEH

Claire Roberts has rejoined her former colleagues at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), in King’s Lynn, as the spread of Covid-19 continues.

On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson said some 20,000 former NHS staff had returned to work to help fight the virus. It came after England’s deputy chief medical officer warned it could be six months before life returns to “normal”.

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, a spokesperson said they had encouraged recently retired staff and medical/nursing students to join them and had so far had more than 400 professionals sign up to do so.

Mrs Roberts, 64, is among those who have returned at the QEH, having retired in 2018 after a nursing career which began in 1974 and saw her move to King’s Lynn in 1983.

“I chose to come back as soon as I heard they were going to be asking retired doctors and nurses to come back to the front line,” she said. “I contacted two of my senior colleagues who are retired too and we all offered to return at the same time, and we came back on the same day.

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“Having spent my entire career working as a nurse in the NHS I could not have sat at home in self-isolation while I knew colleagues were struggling and needed help and support to manage this crisis. I felt I still had something to offer.”

Mrs Roberts returned to work last Monday, and has so far completed six shifts in eight days.

She, with her two former colleagues, is working in the hospital’s Covid-19 operations centre, offering clinical advice, answering queries when they arise and supporting staff.

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“It’s been good,” she said. “It was very tiring initially because you get out of the way of working every day, but it’s been great to see people I know and be part of a united front in trying to tackle this crisis and to feel that you are actually helping to address it and support others.

“I’ve enjoyed the challenge.”

During her career at the hospital, Mrs Roberts, who lives in north Norfolk, mentored numerous student nurses, became the associate director of patient experience, created the Liaison Service and refitted and redeveloped its Intensive Care Unit.

She urged people to follow the government’s guidance, which she said would reduce the number of people needing to come to the hospital and would give staff the ability to care for those there.

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