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Sunday, 24 October 2021
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Daredevil physio to mark 40-year NHS career by abseiling down hospital

A physiotherapist who spent 40 years in the NHS is celebrating her retirement by abseiling down the side of the hospital where she works.

Suzanne Roberts, from Islington in London, is the Head of Integrated Rehabilitation Services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, caring for people at home in Lambeth and Southwark. She originally took up the post as maternity cover in 2019 but delayed her retirement when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Suzanne said:

“I’m so happy to have worked in the NHS, especially during the pandemic – even though that sounds like a strange thing to say. The way our community services changed and responded during COVID-19 has been so impressive – the staff have worked their socks off. It has been an immensely stressful time, but our community staff have continued to care for patients in their own homes in unbelievable numbers.

“One of my earliest memories from the pandemic was delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to our staff from the boot of my car when the guidance suddenly changed, it was my Del Boy moment.”

Suzanne’s NHS career began in September 1981 when she trained to be a physiotherapist at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.

She said:

“I originally applied to St Thomas’ School of Physiotherapy, but they turned me down, so it’s funny that 40 years later, I’m finishing my career here.”

Suzanne, who has a son, was a respiratory physiotherapist who spent a lot of time caring for patients in intensive care wards.

She said:

“There have been some big changes over the last 40 years, but the thing that stands out most to me is that patients are now sicker and often more complex – both those in hospital and those we care for at home. Previously, a lot of patients were essentially well but were on the wards for weeks at a time – young men with broken femurs and people having varicose vein surgery. Now, with advancements in treatment and technology, these patients are in and out.”

In September, Suzanne will abseil 160 feet down the front of St Thomas’ Hospital to raise money for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.

She said:

“It will be a fitting final farewell, and I’m really looking forward to it. Guy’s and St Thomas’ has been an amazing organisation, and I’m going to miss it, but it’s time to hand it over to the next generation – it’s good to leave somewhere feeling a little bit sad.

“I really hope allied health professionals going into the NHS will see working in the community as a real career choice – among others, we need physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists committed to delivering care to people at home.”

With plans to travel on hold because of the current COVID-19 restrictions, Suzanne hopes to spend six months on a canal boat with her husband and to become a ‘community grandma’.

She said:

“I want to help children with reading in school, join in with some community gardening, and try and get a bit fitter.”

There will be 450 thrill-seekers completing the St Thomas’ Abseil challenge over two days – 10 and 11 September – taking in views of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye along the way. 

To support Suzanne’s fundraising, please visit her JustGiving page. 

For more information about St Thomas’ Abseil, and to sign up for a place, please visit: https://www.supportgstt.org.uk/events/st-thomas-abseil.

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