If I hear the word ‘tirelessly’ trotted out by one more politician…
Of course our health care workers don’t work tirelessly. They’re fucking exhausted. And they’re not superheroes either. Suggesting that they are just absolves us from the need to see them as actual human beings.
This is a Guest Blog from a good friend of mine, who we’ll call HCW, writing about life in the NHS during Covid-19:
This is just one incident on one day in one health care worker’s life –
A note on the telephone appointment screen said, ‘Worried about blood pressure’.
Mrs F is an 80+ lady who lives with her husband and has a history of mini strokes.
We discussed her blood pressure, but it was apparent that underlying her anxieties were frustration at being more dependent on her husband and the loneliness of being so long a prisoner of lockdown. During the pandemic the number of patients seeking help for anxiety and low mood has rocketed.
This patient needed assessment for depression as much as for stroke risk. A face-to-face appointment for that afternoon was declined by Mrs F but we arranged a time for the following morning. As I was going to say ‘Good-bye’ she said that her husband wanted a word.
What I wasn’t expecting was the torrent of venom. A lot of pent-up anger came my way. It was disgusting that the surgery had been closed since March, that nobody can be seen, that we had all been paid taxpayers’ money to sit at home. After venting for a while, and as he paused for breath, I politely informed him that we had never been closed. I asked if they had tried calling the surgery before? He said he hadn’t because ‘everyone knows’ that General Practice is closed – but they had called now out of desperation. ‘And how long is the waiting list now before she can get an appointment?’ Being told it would be tomorrow morning as that afternoon wasn’t convenient for his wife brought the response that it was ‘about time we were doing something again’, as his phone slammed down.
We are open for business – just not as usual. General Practice has never closed. My October Productivity Audit – no I’m not joking – showed an average 144 patient contacts in a six hour session. That’s actual factual face-to-face meetings, plus telephone calls, prescription requests, lab results, hospital letters, liaising with other agencies, and the rest.
When the pandemic first hit we had to go into secure mode. There were so many unknowns and we needed to make sure that the surgery could keep running. Staff were kept as separate as possible, some working from home, to prevent Covid from spreading between us. Instead of having a list of 14 appointments in a session, we had an unlimited telephone list – anyone who called was added and we had to call them that day. Those were long days. Remember that glorious Spring? I was either sitting in the spare bedroom hunched over the work laptop. Or at work, then as now, wrapped in plastic.
We have had to make changes to keep the service open and patients safe. Think back to the days of full waiting rooms, snotty little children sitting next to people with chronic diseases, people queuing to pick up a piece of paper, to then go and stand in the pharmacy waiting for it to be dispensed. Unbelievable.
Everything has to be cleaned between patients – equipment, chairs, us… Which takes time. If a patient with Covid comes into the surgery we have to close to be deep cleaned. So when you go into a surgery it will look quiet – but all the work is still being done with careful timing to keep people as apart as possible.
We would have been sunk without technology. Electronic prescriptions are more efficient and secure. Patients can go straight to the pharmacy to collect their medicines which are ready and waiting for them, sick notes can be sent straight to your phone to be emailed to work and best of all we don’t have the ‘I must have lost it on the bus – so I just need another script for my diazepam’ conversations every day. People have appreciated not having to take a day off work to come in for an appointment and at times when life was a little more free, I’ve done reviews with people who had gone to their caravans or were out for the day.
But of course, when people need seeing in person, we are open. Today our Health Care Assistant has been doing health checks, the Practice Nurse has done baby immunisations, smears and bloods. Our Diabetic Nurse specialist had a face-to-face and telephone clinic. The locum GP has had a full list and I’ve had a mix of calls and face-to-face ranging from a mental health crisis to a poorly baby, a new diabetic and two people who needed urgent referrals for breast lumps – and the Mr F previously mentioned.
Our Practice Manager has been booking people into our next late evening and weekend flu clinics. These will be done on our own time. No, we aren’t paid overtime – but we will all be there, trying to get them out of the way before the Covid-19 vaccinations arrive.
So, in spite of what some of the press will have you believe, we are very much open for business – just not as usual.
So when you go for your flu jab or (hopefully before too long) your Covid-19 jab – look at the human beings who are delivering it, and just say thank you.
Scroll all the way down to Follow, Share, Like or Comment on this. And check out my ‘Sixty and Me’ badge.
I always reply to Comments from nice people.