Meet the Castleford Tigers doctor on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus

AS much as Castleford Tigers’ head doctor Nick Raynor is used to treating players, it is patients of a different kind who are now very much the focus of his attention.

Castleford Tigers doctor Nick Raynor (left) and physio Matty Crowther (right) carry Jesse Sene-Lefao off with an injury. Picture: Allan McKenzie\

Like all club doctors, looking after a squad of athletes is only a small part of his hectic weekly workload.

In Raynor’s case, the majority of his time is spent at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

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As an emergency medicine doctor currently on a rotation in intensive care, he is, of course, on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus. In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, the 31-year-old said: “The last few weeks have been the calm before the storm – you can feel it coming.

SAVING LIVES: Castleford Tigers doctor Nick Raynor on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.

“We’ve not got hit incredibly hard yet. But it is busying up.

“The (Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS) Trust has actually genuinely done really good preparation work; it’s been quite good to see how all bureaucracy and stuff you can normally expect with any big organisation seems to have just gone out of the window.

“Things that need to be done are just getting done quickly.

“We’ve restructured the hospital and designated coronavirus wards, expanded the intensive care capacity massively, had walls constructed.... and it all just happened so swiftly.

RUGBY LEAGUE ROLE: Castleford Tigers doctor Nick Raynor.

“We’re working a lot more hours as you can imagine, a lot more weekends and nights just to make sure it’s staffed properly and that’s the junior doctors but also all the consultants.

“Throughout, the nursing staff and everyone have all stepped up. Everyone has pulled together and we’re braced for the storm.”

Raynor, who grew up as a Castleford fan but now lives in Leeds, admits the fear is visible but he is keen to help put peoples’ minds at ease.

“The patients themselves – and their relatives – are understandably scared because they are hearing so much about this in the media,” he explained.

“They are worried as the death rate is being announced every day. They are worried despite the fact most people will get better.

“But one of the hardest things, for both the staff and the patients, is the ban on visitors. It is the right thing to do but it is still tough because when you’re ill in hospital peoples’ loved ones and relatives being around them is really, really important for them.

“And it’s important for us as you are able to update them in person as well and relatives can see the care they are getting and see they are getting looked after.

“Having to do that all over the phone is quite tough but everyone is working as hard as they can to keep people updated.”

Raynor, who is also club doctor for Championship club Dewsbury Rams, says he has not seen any shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) for staff in intensive care.

Asked what the message is he wanted to get across, he said: “Social distancing and following the advice really is making a difference. We’re well prepared.

“It can be scary (for people) thinking we’re going to run out of ventilators and beds but the preparation is good and we will be there for people.

“We will look after their family members and even if they are sadly dying in hospital – on the intensive care unit we can’t even have any visitors to that – we will stay with them and we will look after them.

“But if people stay at home and follow the advice we will be able to maximise our resources to be able to look after them and the people that need it.

“Hopefully we can get this sorted – and then get back to playing rugby!”

Raynor joined Castleford in 2017, the year they went onto finish top for the first time and also reach a maiden Grand Final.

As head doctor he looks after the club’s first team, reserves, Under-18s and Under-16s and is involved in areas such as pre-season screening, concussion management and matchday duties.

“It is quite busy (with hospital role) but I’m from Cas and grew up watching rugby league so it doesn’t feel like too much of a chore!” said Raynor.

“I’m very biased obviously but it’s a great club. The team is good and the coaching staff and conditioning staff and medical staff all work together really well to try and get the combination of winning success but also looking after the players as well.

“On matchdays, after all the pre-match checks, for me hopefully it’s just watching a game with nothing to do. Obviously, there’s concussions and stitches but, thankfully, most of the time, there’s nothing too serious.”

Undoubtedly, things are set to get more serious in his day job.

With Castleford’s players training in isolation, he argued: “It sounds daft but I actually feel lucky that I can go out every day and do my job and see people.”

The lucky ones, rather, are those under the care of him and all of those brave colleagues.