Consultant psychiatrist Dr Bob Adams is one of the retired health professionals who has returned to work during the coronavirus crisis. He spoke to STEPHEN LEWIS

IT is just over six years since Bob Adams retired from his post as a consultant psychiatrist at Bootham Park Hospital.

He has been making good use of the golden years since.

He's travelled to India, not once but twice, to follow in the footsteps of his many times distant ancestor Solomon Earle, who was a Captain in the East India Company army in the late 1700s. Not content with researching Solomon, Bob then wrote a book about him.

He has also travelled to Vietnam and Costa Rica with his wife; driven around the north of Scotland in a camper van with friends; and - closer to home - trekked on foot the whole length of several Yorkshire rivers, including the Nidd, the Ure and the Foss. He's currently part-way through a staged walk along the length of the River Derwent - a journey he plans to resume once lockdown is over.

Regular readers of The Press will be familiar with these journeys, because Bob wrote about them all for this newspaper.

So it has been an active, enjoyable retirement. But when lockdown arrived and a call went out for retired medical professionals to think about going back to work, he didn't hesitate.

Yes, he was a bit scared, he admits. "It would have been much easier to stay at home and just go for short walks and not be close to other people. But I feel I couldn't sit at home. I had to answer the call."

The call had actually gone out to health professionals who retired within the last three years. But Bob, while he retired from front-line hospital psychiatry six years ago, has been doing some work for the mental health tribunal service, which handles appeals by patients who have been sectioned against their will. So he qualified.

And so it is that, six years after retiring from Bootham Park, he's back on the frontline. His medical licence temporarily restored in the midst of the greatest health crisis this country or the world has faced in a generation, he has been put in charge of a ward at York's brand-new psychiatric hospital Foss Park, on Haxby Road.

So how has he been finding it?

Not having worked in hospitals for six years it was quite a challenge at first, he admits. Procedures have changed, as has some of the technology and IT. There have also been changes to the roles of some staff: there are now well-qualified nurse consultants, for example, who can take on considerable responsibility.

The biggest change, however, was that when he retired, York's psychiatric hospital was one that had been purpose built ... in the 1700s.

Foss Park, by contrast, was purpose built in the 21st century.

When he first went back to work shortly after lockdown began, psychiatric patients in York were still being treated at Peppermill Court, which had been pressed into use as a temporary psychiatric hospital.

But on April 21, the whole operation was moved lock, stock and barrel to Foss Park.

There was huge controversy when Boothan Park closed so abruptly a few years ago. But there is no doubt that Foss park is an 'amazing building' from the patients' point of view, Bob says.

There are four V-shaped wards, each with two wings. Two wards are reserved for elderly patients, two for adults aged 18-65.

Every patient has their own single but spacious en-suite room, and where pairs of wards meet there are communal living areas. There are also pleasant meeting and staff rooms. The wards themselves are locked, but within wards patients are free to move around. "It is very well designed," Bob says.

Under normal circumstances, there would be separate men's and women's wards. These, however, are anything but normal circumstances.

The hospital has to be prepared for the possibility that coronavirus might get inside. Men and women are therefore sharing a ward, to free up space for a whole wing to be set aside as a coronavirus isolation wing. At time of speaking to Bob, this hadn't been needed. But it is there ready in case.

All patients are tested for the virus on admission. Any that test positive will go to the isolation ward.

On the wards, patients themselves are not expected to wear face masks. But hospital staff who come into contact with them do use full PPE - gowns, masks and gloves. There has been no shortage of this, Bob stresses - not, at least, since he returned to work.

A special 'PPE changing room' has been set up at the entrance to each ward. "When you go onto the ward, you gown up, and put on mask and gloves. When you leave, you take them off."

And how about the patients themselves? Has there been an upsurge in mental health problems related to the stress of the pandemic and lockdown? And has that been reflected in an increase in inpatient admissions?

He only sees patients who are sufficiently seriously ill to require hospital admission, he stresses. There has not been a big increase in admissions, for fear of the virus spreading within hospital. "The plan is to keep as many people out of hospital as possible, because we don't want people congregating together."

Nevertheless, the virus is certainly a factor among many of the patients he treats.

Many already had serious delusions or paranoias. Fear of the virus can't help but add to that, he says. "I've seen quite a number of patients in the hospital suffering not from the virus itself, but from fear of getting it. People who are mentally ill have lots of fears. They are people who become out of touch with reality. Suddenly they find they can't go out, can't meet friends, the day centres are closed. Then when they come into hospital and see the staff gowned up and wearing masks, it seems odd to them. It adds to their paranoia."

Out in the community, meanwhile, he certainly expects there to be an increase in mental health issues as a result of the pandemic as time goes on. Yes, there is fear of the virus itself, he says. But there's more. There's the isolation. "If you're a single person on your own, you don't have a garden and you're stuck in a room, it doesn't take much imagination to work out how that could be very stressful.

"And there are a lot of people that have lost their jobs. Economically it is going to be difficult. Many small businesses are not going to manage. We don't really know what sort of world we're going to find ourselves in in future. All that causes anxiety and worry."

The social, economic and psychological impact of this virus is going to be around for a long time, in short.

So how long does he see this crisis lasting - and how long will his services as a consultant psychiatrist brought back from retirement be needed?

He has been re-registered as a practicing psychiatrist for the 'duration of the crisis', he says.

"There has been no time limit put on that. But I would imagine it will be a few months more at least."