Why I’m reluctant to join the coronavirus home guard

The government plan to recruit retired nurses during the COVID-19 crisis has a serious flaw

Ready for the front line in make-do-and-mend hazmat suits Picture: Alamy

Permission to speak, sir! If I had sixpence for everyone who has asked me if I’m going to join ‘Dad’s Army’ and allow myself to be hauled back to work to fight the coronavirus, I would be lying on a beach in St Lucia rather than battling the wind and rain in good old Blighty. 

People seem to find the idea of us oldies being back in harness amusing – well let them get their kicks where they can, because we’re all doomed, DOOMED. (And if I had sixpence for everyone who said ‘Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring!’. Well, you get the idea.)

Dwindling resources are no problem for older nurses

My other half is relishing this idea. He even suggested we might have to go back to the days of boiling patients – it was a slip of the tongue, he meant equipment – because when NHS resources run out us old timers will know how to cope without the sophisticated paraphernalia of our modern NHS.

We’ll go back to trepanning and blood-letting, the Australian lift, and measuring everything in gills and minims. We’ll be carrying out hernia operations using only a kettle, a length of twine and a couple of paper clips.

Everything will be written down instead of entered on some database, because that’s what most of us geriatrics are comfortable with, and for once, while all the youngsters are in quarantine, we will call the shots.

Creative incentives may need to be employed

I wonder how persuasive the NHS will be to get us back. Will they send out press gangs to drag us out from underneath our kitchen tables where we’ve taken refuge? Don’t tell them your name, Pike!

Or will they sweeten the pill by making us offers we can’t refuse, waving rolls of loo paper and bottles of hand sanitiser before our eyes until we eventually capitulate? Everyone has their price.

And will we undergo any tests before we’re let loose on the public? The most likely scenario is that anyone with a pulse will be deemed suitable, even though – as most of us are 60 plus – we are more likely than the rest of the population to have health and mobility restraints.

It’s no good if in the middle of a crash call we have to be repeatedly excused to use the lavatory, especially when it’s taken half an hour to get to the scene because our knees aren’t what they were.

Is it sensible to put the most vulnerable on the front line?

Many of us are caring for family members in our retirement – ageing parents, grandchildren, sick partners – and would think twice about putting our nearest and dearest in harm’s way. I’m as willing to help as anyone, but given the advice to the rest of the population about working from home and to vulnerable older people about staying at home, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Ours is the generation that is hardest hit by the virus. This call to arms could be nothing but a cynical cull. They may be using our good-natured willingness to step up in a crisis to finally bump us all off and slim down the elderly population. Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hancock?

The latest on COVID-19

Picture of Jane Bates. Struggling to adapt to the changing pace of life after retiring from nursing, she lists some of the mental triggers that still keep her on edge.Jane Bates is a retired nurse



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