Bermudian doctor in UK to call it a day
Richard Lonsdale didn’t expect his final months as a working physician would be quite so exciting.
Covid-19 struck in March, just as he was preparing for retirement.
The 64-year-old Bermudian, who has been a general practitioner in Nottingham, England for the past 35 years, instantly recognised it as something serious.
“I realised from the beginning that it would be something bigger than I have ever dealt with before,” said Dr Lonsdale, who treated many patients with the virus but managed to avoid catching it himself.
Nottingham has recorded just over 10,000 cases of Covid-19 since the virus became a pandemic in March.
Two of Dr Lonsdale’s business partners were not so lucky, and got infected early on in the crisis.
“In fact, I have been healthier than I have ever been,” he said. “This year I wasn’t catching colds from patients the way I normally do.”
It helped that he began seeing all of his patients virtually; today, many who had supposedly recovered from the disease complain they are still struggling with its after effects.
“One patient who had the virus six weeks ago still has a bad headache that carries on and on. She is over Covid-19, but not really. That is the problem.”
The worst affected areas are those around the city’s universities – Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham. Classes resumed September 25; Dr Lonsdale thinks it was likely too soon for students to physically return to school.
“They probably could have done most of their courses online and wouldn’t have lost too much from having done so,” he said. “In Nottingham just this last week they have had a lot of students who have been fined for having big parties.”
He decided to “hang up [his] stethoscope” about a year ago and has been working three days a week in the period since.
“That is nice because it means I get to spend more time with my wife Val,” he said. “I have so enjoyed my career in medicine, but now things are changing.”
He does not like the increasing pressures from the National Health Service.
“You don’t have as much freedom to do what you think is best,” he said. “The other thing that has changed a lot is that the government is wanting people to be able to see a doctor, but not necessarily the same doctor every time. I very much appreciate seeing the patients again and trying to follow through. The continuity is being lost. I find that difficult. And patients don’t like it either.”
He grew up in Southampton. His mother, Joy Evans, was a nurse who worked at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. His father, Alan Lonsdale, was a Yorkshire man who came to Bermuda during the Second World War to work as a dental technician with the army.
He has one brother, David.
“Because David was 11 years older than me, it was like I was an only child,” Dr Lonsdale said. “David was away at school while I was growing up. It was a bit of a lonely childhood.”
He remembers his days at Warwick Academy as idyllic. He believes it was his mother’s influence that led him to medicine.
He studied at Cambridge before training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. One of his first posts was at a hospice in the eastern part of the capital city.
“I worked with terminally ill patients there for a year,” Dr Lonsdale said. “There were still craters left from bombs dropped in the Second World War. Many of my patients lived in old high-rise flats. There were no indoor toilets. Change was coming but we really couldn’t see it at the time. Now, of course, there are skyscrapers were those craters once were.”
Although stationed at the hospice he would go out into the community to care for people.
“I was treated well by my patients,” he said. “I think in those days there was high regard for doctors. I’m not sure it’s the same today.
“I learnt so much about life in the world from meeting different people at the end of their lives. It was so interesting. It really spurred me on to want to do general practice more in deprived areas.”
His patients today range from children to the elderly; people born in the UK and also refugees, from countries such as Syria.
“We also look after Nottingham Trent University,” he said. “More than half of my patients are students, but I probably see less of them because theoretically, they are more fit.”
On occasion, he sees Bermudian students from the nearby universities.
“I can always recognise a Bermudian accent,” he said.
He still loves Bermuda and tries to come home every few years.
“I was last there about three years ago,” he said. “Sometimes I just get a pang for it. I will probably be back there next year. My childhood growing up in Bermuda was so wonderful.”
He and his wife married 11 years ago.
“She was an occupational health adviser in industry,” he said. “We met through a practice nurse that I used to employ.”
Outside of medicine Dr Lonsdale’s passion is gardening. The Lonsdales have just bought a bungalow outside of Nottingham. In his retirement Dr Lonsdale hopes to grow vegetables there, and travel more.