Flags, footballers and farewells as retiring GP given huge send-off
"It has been an honour to serve the people of Aldridge and I would do the same job all over again."
A much-loved GP has celebrated his retirement with a surprise party after 40 years working in the NHS.
Patients, friends and colleagues lined the street dressed in bandages and held banners outside the surgery in Aldridge where Dr Colin Flenley had worked for 36 years.
After his final shift on Friday, Dr Flenley was waved off as he left in a convertible MG sports car before his neighbours threw him a street party for when he returned home.
The 63-year-old has seen more than 10,000 patients come through the doors during his time at Portland Medical Practice, which has doubled in size and is now full to capacity.
Originally from Liverpool, Dr Flenley moved to the Midlands in 1975 to study at Birmingham Medical School where he qualified as a doctor before becoming a GP in Aldridge.
He said: "It has been a real privilege to live and work in Aldridge and many of my patients are friends.
"It is also extremely rewarding to teach young doctors and medical students.
"Some of the highs have been seeing families grow up and dealing with whole families from grandparents to children.
"Including end-of-life care, to be with someone through their final stages and be able to support them and make sure they die with dignity is part of being that whole family doctor.
"The job does carry tremendous emotional burden, you carry it with you, you don't leave it behind at 6pm when you leave work, it has been an emotional rollercoaster. You are giving all the time and it carries a great weight.
"I am a Liverpool fan, and was at the Hillsborough disaster on the terrace where 96 people died and I went to resuscitate people.
"Even now talking about that the emotions build up."
Dr Flenley has worked throughout the coronavirus crisis keeping in contact with patients virtually.
He added: "Lockdown has been strange, hard and stressful. The video surgeries have actually taken longer to do as I think you have to concentrate more as you're not getting the none-verbal communication.
"I do think this will be the new normal, which is sad because it will affect vulnerable people.
"Wearing the mask, visor and PPE and not being able to shake hands or hug patients has also been hard, as the human contact is so essential for some of them.
"I never thought I would finish in the current climate."
Dr Flenley was given a special Liverpool shirt with Portland 36 on the back as a retirement gift, and manager Jurgen Klopp even made an appearance alongside players Jordan Henderson, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane thanks to some masked well-wishers.
He said: "I had no idea it was happening, it was amazing. I didn't think I would be able to say goodbye to anyone because of lockdown, it was very emotional.
"I have had so many people send me well wishes on social media too, it is a real privilege and I can't thank everybody enough for their support yesterday.
"I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years and to all of the patients who turned out, I am looking forward to seeing them all in a local pub and raising a glass."
Dr Flenley is not leaving his profession behind. He is a member of Prime, a medical educational charity, and is going to be teaching young people in Africa and India virtually over Zoom.
He also plans to spend more time with his three grandchildren, travelling in his camper van, playing the saxophone and cycling.
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