AN IRISH MP who returned to nursing to support the battle against Covid-19 believes health and social care must become “one united front” to overcome the virus.
Maria Caulfield, the Conservative MP for Lewes, returned to the NHS in March as a cancer nurse treating patients with Covid-19 at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Brompton.
She had answered the appeal by Health Secretary Matt Hancock for former doctors and nurses to help support medical efforts during the coronavirus outbreak.
Ms Caulfield, who was born in Wandsworth, London in 1973, to parents who came to Britain in the 1950s from counties Longford and Cork, has seen first-hand the need for a ‘joined-up’ social welfare system that would see both care homes and hospitals working in tandem.
She told The Irish Post: “When the coronavirus crisis first hit, it was clear the NHS was going to come under huge pressure.
“I wanted to do my bit to help out. I still had my nursing registration and so I returned to my old hospital working on the wards.
“As a bank nurse I worked on the Covid and non-Covid wards, wherever they needed me really.”
She added: “While of course you are nervous going on to each shift because you never know what your will find on the ward, there is a great team spirit among all the staff from the cleaners to the consultants which gets you through it.
“Also the support of the public has made a great difference from the weekly Clap for Carers to all the gifts sent in.”
Ms Caulfield grew up on a council estate with her father and brother.
Her mother - who also trained as a nurse in England – died when she was a teenager, after developing breast cancer.
After leaving school Ms Caulfield became an NHS nurse specialising in cancer treatment. Later she was the Senior Sister at the Royal Marsden NHS Hospital.
Her passion for the heath service led her into politics and in the 2015 general election she won the Lewes seat for the Conservative party.
Since returning to her former career in recent weeks, Ms Caulfield has witnessed the difficulties faced by the health service in providing equipment to all care providers.
She stresses that there cannot be separate systems in place for health and social care; they must instead work closely together as “one united front”.
The MP isn’t alone in returning to the NHS during the pandemic.
Kieran Mullan, the Conservative MP for Crewe and Nantwich, and the son of a Northern Irish immigrant, has made himself available as an A&E doctor during the coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile in Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar — a GP before embarking on a political career — re-joined the medical register in April to help out during the crisis.