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Queen’s Birthday Honours: Barkingside GP given BEM for jumping on frontline of coronavirus pandemic as Nightingale ITU doctor

PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:32 12 October 2020

Dr Hareen De Silva was honoured with a BEM for his work as a Nightingale doctor on the frontline of the coronavirus response. Picture: Hareen De Silva

Dr Hareen De Silva was honoured with a BEM for his work as a Nightingale doctor on the frontline of the coronavirus response. Picture: Hareen De Silva

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A GP who was at the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic as an NHS Nightingale doctor said he was surprised and humbled to be awarded a British Empire Medal.

Once the impact of the pandemic became clear Dr De Silva volunteered to work as an ITU doctor for NHS Nightingale. Picture: Hareen De SilvaOnce the impact of the pandemic became clear Dr De Silva volunteered to work as an ITU doctor for NHS Nightingale. Picture: Hareen De Silva

Dr Hareen De Silva, who lives in Barkingside, was among those included on the delayed Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

During his career, the 35-year-old has volunteered as a street doctor offering care to the homeless in Doncaster, during his lunch break in between morning and afternoon surgeries, and worked as a doctor for charity The Kids Village in Costa Rica.

He was set to support a charity expedition with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Gough Island, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean earlier this year.

As the impact of the pandemic was becoming clear, he applied to work on the frontline at NHS Nightingale in the ITU department, knowing the job would take him away from his family and put himself at risk as a BAME doctor.

Dr De Silva volunteered as a street doctor while working in Doncaster and has done charitable work in Costa Rica and plans to work in a refugee camp in Greece following the pandemic. Picture: Hareen De SilvaDr De Silva volunteered as a street doctor while working in Doncaster and has done charitable work in Costa Rica and plans to work in a refugee camp in Greece following the pandemic. Picture: Hareen De Silva

Dr De Silva told the Recorder: “When I heard I had been nominated for the honours it came out of left field and I was really surprised and humbled.

“I haven’t done any more than other GPs have done and I don’t feel I deserve this any more than all the regular GPs in hospitals.”

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Dr De Silva, who is from Sri Lanka, described his family as “big backers” of the royal family and said “my overwhelming thoughts are that I am proud to be an immigrant to have been awarded the honour”.

Once his contract finished at NHS Nightingale in May, he worked for the NHS Track and Trace service before returning to frontline GP work.

He now sees most patients remotely through telephone and video calls as well as some house calls.

He said: “Overnight general practices have become technically savvy to continue treating our patients but there are still plenty of challenges.”

As coronavirus cases are shooting up again he said he was apprehensive about the second wave.

“The NHS did well to cope with it the first time around but now we have the extra hurdle of flu season.

“A lot of this now depends on how society responds and follows through with it but I have hope.”

Once the pandemic is over Dr De Silva hopes to continue his charitable work as a doctor in a refugee camp in Greece.


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