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NHS doctors destress from coronavirus pressures at Grantham golf club

Article by Chris Harby

Stoke Rochford Golf Club has become a crucial sanctuary from the stress and pressures of the coronavirus pandemic for two NHS doctors.

Since golf clubs reopened in May, Ashraf Ibrahim and David Bailey, who work as consultant histopathologists at Peterborough City Hospital, have come to depend on golf to escape and recharge.

Ashraf Ibrahim and David Bailey pictured at Stoke Rochford's biggest event of the summer – Captains Weekend. (39348642)
Ashraf Ibrahim and David Bailey pictured at Stoke Rochford's biggest event of the summer – Captains Weekend. (39348642)

For both men, under significant pressure dealing with a national and global health crisis, the restorative powers of playing the Stoke Rochford fairways and greens could not be underestimated.

“At one stage, we had several wards of patients who were struggling badly with the virus,” said Dr Bailey, who joined the NHS in 1995 straight from service as a Royal Air Force pathologist.

“During the time courses were closed, I was chewing my fingernails down to the quick.

Dr David Bailey (39348639)
Dr David Bailey (39348639)

“Working 50 to 60 hours a week, three or four hours of golf is vital for my mental health. It keeps me on an even keel.

“We tried to play at every opportunity and those first five weeks, after courses reopened, we played both days of the weekend, and occasionally I might pop in the evening for nine holes.”

“Golf has been the main way of relaxing and getting out of that cycle of work, because work was following us home as well,” added Dr Ibrahim, who has worked within the NHS for 27 years, the last 18 months at Peterborough.

“Work was work and then home became work during that time, so it was very important to find another place to go.

Dr Ashraf Ibrahim (39348634)
Dr Ashraf Ibrahim (39348634)

“Golf was a way of managing the stress and recharging.

“We both work in the same department and it’s also a way of talking, connecting and discussing things outside of that formal hospital environment.”

Working in one of the busiest small hospital laboratories in the country, their main role is to examine tissue and cells under a microscope to diagnose diseases, such as cancers, and help clinicians manage a patient’s care.

But as Covid-19 hit the UK, both saw their roles change as the NHS channelled the bulk of its resources into combating the pandemic.

Dr Bailey said: “We made ourselves available to provide additional death certification and medical examiner services, and did this work from late March until about a month ago.

“We were very busy. Some days there were 15 to 20 deaths which was two to three times more than normal, and a high proportion of those were due to Covid.

"Aspects of our non-routine work increased dramatically and most cases had to be treated as being potentially Covid-related.

“The change in practice was stressful and disturbing, and sometimes quite depressing."

Dr Ibrahim added: “There have been very difficult times at work, not just because we have been busy but also because of the nature of the change.

“You are also worrying about your family.

“Going out to work in the morning you wonder, ‘Am I going to come back with it in the evening?’, but thankfully all of us have been fine.

“Golf for both myself and David has been the only way to let off steam.”

Both joined Stoke Rochford in 2018 after quickly falling for the picturesque parkland course, the pull of which persuaded Dr Ibrahim to make the regular two hour round trip from his Cambridgeshire home.

Put off by the mileage earlier this year, he tried clubs nearer to home, but swiftly rejoined Stoke within a month.

“David and I were looking for a place to play and tried a few clubs and thought Stoke was the best,” he said. “It was a great find. The members are very helpful and nice, and it’s an interesting course. The stately home, the river, it's all very pleasant.

“Some clubs are run by a company or hotel and you feel it’s run to make profit and for what is convenient for the club, but I don’t feel the same at Stoke. It’s run by members for the members.”

Dr Bailey, who turns out for the club’s B team, added: “The guys at Stoke Rochford have worked so hard to keep it going during the lockdown and it really shows.

“The first game we came back, it looked like we had never been away.

“The key difference for me between Stoke and every other club is the quality of the greens and how well the club has maintained the bunkering during the lockdown.”

Stoke Rochford are hosting a family activities day for all ages to try out golf from 3pm to 6pm on Sunday, August 23.

Anyone wishing to go along and meet the team, for an hour or so, should contact Steve Cullington by emailing office@stokerochfordgolfclub.co.uk

For more details on membership options and golf for visitors and societies, call (01476) 530275 or visit www.stokerochfordgolfclub.co.uk

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