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Retired GP from Barrowden, in Rutland, awarded MBE in King’s Birthday Honours for services to St John Ambulance

A retired doctor who has devoted her life to helping others has been named in the latest King’s Birthday Honours list.

Dr Margaret Austin, a GP for 53 years alongside a myriad of other volunteer roles, has been awarded the MBE for services to St John Ambulance and to first aid training.

The letter bringing the good news arrived 10 days after it was posted - on the very day that recipients had to accept the honour by.

Dr Austin is still volunteering with St John Ambulance, 52 years after joining
Dr Austin is still volunteering with St John Ambulance, 52 years after joining

“I was very surprised because you just don’t expect these honours,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful recognition, but also for the work I have done with the St John Ambulance - it is recognition for them as well, not just myself.

“Let’s hope that the general public have learnt a lot of first aid over the years. It certainly helps cut down on contact with the NHS.”

Other Lincolnshire and Rutland people named in the King’s Birthday Honours List

Having graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin in 1969 she moved into general practice at a surgery in the Birmingham district of Yardley Green.

Dr Austin, 80, then spent 37 years as a GP at Billesdon, in Leicestershire, moving to the Rutland village of Barrowden around 20 years ago, and worked there into her late 70s before retirement two years ago.

She was still working during the covid pandemic during which she also volunteered more than 250 hours as an NHS vaccinator.

“Medicine was more than a job, it was a life really,” she said.

“You never know what’s going to happen from day to day so you are always learning.

“I wouldn’t change any of it. Originally I didn’t think I was going to do general practice, I thought I would work in intensive care or in emergency medicine, but I found general practice very fulfilling.”

It was from her first practice that a 52-year association with St John Ambulance began.

“The partner there was the medical officer at Birmingham City Football Club,” she explained.

“When he went on holiday I had to look after Birmingham City - I had never been to a football match in my life!

“During the match a St John Ambulance volunteer called me from their first aid unit to ask if I could help them with a patient.

“The following day I received a call at the surgery asking me if I would join - and that’s how I got involved.”

She eventually became the charity’s chief medical adviser for England and helped produce the UK's only fully authorised first aid guide. It remains the official training manual for all of the UK's leading first aid organisations.

Dr Austin also co-authored the maiden first aid manual for Sri Lanka in 2018 which has been published in three languages.

Before the pandemic, she also spent time every year in India, volunteering at a tea plantation, north of Darjeeling, to provide a GP service and antenatal care, as well as instructing first aid to tea factory employees.

Her work with St John has seen her volunteer at major national shows and sporting events across the country, including providing emergency first aid as a senior doctor covering the London Marathon and Remembrance Sunday.

Closer to home she worked for SJA at the Rutland County Show, and has volunteered at the Burghley Horse Trials for the last 45 years, helping spectators, and also riders during the cross country rounds.

While bringing up a son and daughter, Dr Austin, also somehow found time to volunteer with Rutland Accident Care Scheme (BASICS) for 20 years, providing emergency medical response to serious road traffic incidents.

“It’s the basic training and the care that you can give even your neighbours and other people, you’re providing that through the knowledge of St John,” she said.

“It’s a very worthwhile organisation.”

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