On 28 December we said farewell to Dr Theo Weston MBE after he finished his final shift at GNAAS.
Theo has dedicated his career and a large amount of his spare time helping other people, including saving countless lives. Before retiring from his role at GNAAS, we caught up with him to talk about his life, career highlights, and what he’s going to miss most about our charity.
Could you talk me through your career up until now?
I qualified at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in London in 1982, then the following year I did F1 Junior House jobs in medicine and surgery in Canterbury & Hemel Hempstead (six months each).
From 1984 to 1987, I did my three years of GP training in Northampton (including a year in GP & six months in obstetrics and gynecology, paediatrics, rheumatology, geriatrics, psychiatry).
After this I did a variety of six month senior house officer jobs in Northampton including A&E, dermatology, and community paediatrics in between going on various expeditions to different parts of the world with Raleigh International (Operation Raleigh), British Schools Exploring Society and Yorkshire Schools Exploring Society, including to the Yukon, Kashmir, the Bahamas and also sailing across the Atlantic on a 180ft square rigged sailing boat.
I then spent three months as a locum GP (temporary GP) in a very remote part of Canada in 1990/91, and in 1992 I joined the Birbeck Medical Practice in Penrith as a full time GP Partner but resigned from there in June 2015 after 23 years; I was also a GP Trainer for most of that time.
I became a member of Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team in 1993 before stepping down in 2022, and started BASICS in Penrith/Cumbria as the BEEP Doctors Charity in 1994 and I am continuing to respond for this.
I joined GNAAS in 2003 when the charity first started operating in Cumbria, and I have been employed by the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) since 2014 as one of their MERIT/major incident doctors. I’ve also been a medical advisor for the Outward Bound UK Risk Management Committee for 15 years.
What have been your proudest achievements?
Being accepted as part of Team GNAAS for 20 years, and being able to keep up with all the amazing clinical developments and advances within GNAAS, including learning how to perform pre-hospital emergency anaesthetics, thoracotomies, using syringe drivers & arterial lines for the transfers and the giving of blood transfusions.
Setting up BASICS in Cumbria via the BEEP Doctors Charity and developing it into a County-wide organisation. Being part of all the major incidents there have been in Cumbria over the last 30 years (total of eight so far) as well as helping out at the Manchester bombing in 2017.
Do you have any career highlights?
Being awarded my MBE in 2013, a Lifetime Achievement Award by BASICS National in November 2023 and passing my DipIMC exam in 2002.
Did you always want to be a doctor? If not, what job/career did you want?
Yes, I guess I always have; I’m the fourth generation of Doctors in our family. My Dad was a surgeon and set up the forerunner to the BEEP Doctors Charity, the Penrith & District Accident Scheme some 50 years ago, my Grandad was a GP as was his Dad. My Dad did try to dissuade me but I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do.
How does it feel to retire from GNAAS?
Very, very sad indeed; I’m going to miss GNAAS enormously.
It has been very difficult for me to make this decision and has taken me quite a while to take the plunge; but I think the time is right now as I’m over 65 years old and getting a bit more creaky!
It has been a huge privilege and massive honour to have been able to work for GNAAS for 20 years and I’m so grateful and indebted to them for everything they have taught me because without this I would certainly not have been able to do everything I have, including the BASICS responding.
Are there any things you’re going to miss about working for GNAAS?
The banter in the Operations Room (including all the jokes and teasing). The clinical challenges and the fantastic reward of seeing people survive or come out of hospital in a better state than they otherwise would have done had we not been there. Flying around the north of England in the helicopters with all the magnificent views and sights and being able to cycle in to work during the summer months.
What are your future plans, now that you’re retiring from GNAAS?
I’m going to continue responding for BASICS/BEEP for the next year or two as well as being part of the NWAS Major Incident Service (MERIT). I would like to think that I might be able to help with a more integrated, collaborative way of working between GNAAS & BEEP to the benefit of our patients. My wife and I are planning to buy either a caravan or a motorhome and are going to do a bit of travelling both in the UK & abroad. There will also be more cycling, and gardening & home DIY as we prepare to move home and downsize a bit as our two daughters have now left home; maybe get a dog and some hens.