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Always remember, we are all superheroes!
The last 8 weeks have been a blur, in fact, I couldn’t be sure if it has been 8 weeks since the start of the Covid pandemic. What has happened during that time has hit us all harder than anything we have ever experienced. When this all started, we were asking patients where they had been on holiday, we had our reception open as usual and thought we were just dealing with a normal flu. Yet, there has been nothing normal about the last 8 weeks.
I am writing this the week before I am taking some leave. During those 8 weeks, I have worked every day, 7 days a week sometimes. I need a break, but I started to feel like this new normal might be here to stay.
So, what is it that has changed? Well, in short everything. Like most practices, we are in total triage. It means patients who insisted on seeing us are now happy to just talk to us on the phone, and via video call. In fact, we are seeking to continue to use video consultations in the future and never go back to seeing patients face to face.
Which brings me onto what we have learnt and what we will keep doing.
- We can be more agile than we ever imagined. How we work should not be restricted to what is outlined in our business continuity plan. We have now tested everything and improved our systems faster than ever. When our technology has improved the way we work, why would we ever print out a prescription again?
- Our staff have been amazing. I hear practices telling me that they have people sitting around with little to do; there is still so much to do! We are talking to our patients who are shielding every week, finding out how they are, what they need and how we can help. Our administration team are utilising the downtime to manage our patients' list, check their nominated pharmacy record, make sure the PDS is linked, and their problem list is organised. All of these are a huge job.
- Our community is the best in the world (I know we all think this at the moment too!). We always have great links with them but now we have 100 volunteers in a Covid Mutual Support Group that help deliver prescriptions, shop for their neighbours, and most importantly, be there for each other. Perhaps it is a time for us to start thinking how we can capture that spirit, build on it and keep that wellbeing and self-care approach even after the pandemic is over.
- The patients have been understanding, they remain calm, gentle, and caring despite the situation. Although they are worried, they know that we are very giving and supportive both physically and remotely. We have had gifts, people sewing scrubs for us, letters of thanks, kind words, its been phenomenal. I can’t ever really talk about the Thursday night clapping without being emotional.
- Our team huddle every morning for half an hour, we chat about patients, life and we support each other. We will continue with this without a doubt, it has been priceless just to be together.
That all sounds very positive doesn’t it? There have been some very stressful, very sad moments, we have seen staff members having to isolate, we have lost patients, we have seen huge losses in our care homes. We have, for the first time in my time at the practice, lost more patients than we have received in April and seen our list size reduce. Its been sad, its been stressful and we need to capture all these things for us to learn from.
That’s the hard bit. While crisis has been manageable and primary care been continuing to deliver care and kindness, it takes times for people to comprehend the situation and recognise that there is a silver lining to this dark cloud.
It is also time to think about our long-term resilience, how should we document and record everything that we have learnt, what should our next business continuity plans look like? Those are questions that we really need an answer to. It can prepare us and make sure we don’t go blindly into the next crisis. It is about finding the time to stop while maintaining service and the speed of change.
But please remember when you are feeling down and lost - We Are ALL Superheroes!
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