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Palliative consultant, Rev Dr Susan Salt, has returned to the medical frontline during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Susan, a medic with more than 30 years’ experience, had retired in March 2019 to follow her calling to serve in The Church of England.

Last summer she was ordained in the Blackburn Diocese at Blackburn Cathedral and was enjoying working as a Deacon in The Fellside Team, made up of five parishes in the Preston/Garstang area, before the coronavirus outbreak.

In March Susan had joined a Task Group managing the Diocesan response to coronavirus, chaired by Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North. Susan was a key member of the group, providing medical and bereavement support advice and guidance.

But when the Government asked retired medics to return to hospital settings, Susan did not hesitate.

“There was clearly a need and an ask. Having left medicine very recently and being qualified in a skill set that was required at this time, I felt it was right for me to respond to the call,” Susan explained.

“It was very humbling to return and I was inspired by what had been achieved by the staff and the Trust, reorganising everything to respond effectively to this crisis.

“People are working in areas that they have never worked in before and the staff are doing their absolute best in the face of near impossible conditions,” Susan added.

“They are showing incredible compassion in a situation they would never want to be in.”

After Susan qualified, she trained as a GP but, after taking up a locum position in a hospice, she realised that was where her future lay and retrained in palliative medicine.

In 2007 she took up the post of medical director at Trinity Hospice and a palliative care consultant at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

“My experience in palliative care enables me to support and empathise with staff in the work they are now doing. I am helping with bereavement training and am setting up a new bereavement hub which will enable the Trust to support relatives.”

Some of Susan’s work is on the COVID-19 wards at the hospital which has meant she has had to self-isolate away from her family in Grimsargh to keep them, and particularly her elderly father-in-law, safe.

“I have no idea how long I will be at Victoria Hospital, but have committed for at least a month so far and will review the situation after that.

“My roles have definite parallels, as a priest and a medic. Both give me the privilege to look after people and treat everyone as equal and I hope that as a deacon, who happens to be a doctor, I can enable patients, their families as well as the staff to be cared for spiritually and  mentally as well as physically.”

Speaking today, Bishop Philip said: “Susan has made an exceptional contribution to our Task Group through a combination of her expert medical background and her understanding of parish life.

“I enormously admire her obedience to God’s call in choosing to return to the medical frontline at this time. We look forward to welcoming her back to parish life in due course for her imminent ordination as a priest.”

  • Picture credits: 'Rainbow' NHS picture courtesy Lancashire Post; ordination picture by Sara Cuff


Ronnie Semley