A passionate local GP talks about the impact of the Coronavirus on her and her surgery. 

I was asked to say a little bit about what it’s been like in general practice since the Coronavirus crisis. Well I saw a brilliant little clip that sums this up perfectly: it was one of those old Donkey Kong style games with obstacles coming at you from all angles so you had to leap out of the way. 

During the first week of the lockdown everyone froze in time and kept away from the GP surgeries so it was reasonably quiet. However, this was the calm before the storm, as we had to all pick ourselves up and start to analyse what was needed in the coming weeks and months.

Now imagine all the red poles spinning

It was soon evident that we still needed to keep essential medical services going, such as the cervical smear program and childhood immunisations, amongst others. There’s no point in surviving the Coronavirus only to die of things like cervical cancer and measles. 

Another issue we face in general practice is the fear and anxiety that the pandemic has created on so many levels. One particular topic that has caused a huge amount of angst is that of the government designation of a high-risk patient category, which has been given the name ‘shielding’. These people need to stay at home as much as possible unless they have essential medical appointments and minimise their contact with the outside world for at least 12 weeks.

The problem is that initially the government had quite a broad range of conditions that were felt to be at risk – affecting some 19 million people – but they quickly narrowed this down to the much smaller number of around 1.6 million, those with conditions that come with very strict criteria, e.g. those with cancers who are undergoing chemotherapy.

For more information on this please go to the govt website https://digital.nhs.uk/coronavirus/shielded-patient-list

Unfortunately, the broad criteria were published first and this has created a lot of anxiety amongst people feeling that they should be on this list of the shielded, and it has been GPs who have had to advise them that they are no longer on the elusive list. 

Who knows when this will all end? But one thing is for sure: Coronavirus is not the only disease that needs to be considered in our nation and general practice is at the heart of ensuring we keep people healthy in many other ways. Surgeries are now implementing strict processes to ensure your visits are as safe as can be e.g. HOT sites where patients with suspected symptoms are seen and COLD sites where only people with no symptoms are seen. On the COLD site everyone’s temperature is measured on arrival and, if high, they aren’t allowed in, including staff.

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