Reflecting on the pandemic

24 July 2020

I am just back from a relaxing staycation, which was really needed, and it enabled me to reflect on where we are now and also the last few months of living through this pandemic.

Carey, who is currently enjoying some well-earned leave, has been using this blog to shine a light on the silver linings that have arisen from this awful situation.

I will continue with this theme for the first part of my blog this week. 

COVID-19 reflections

General practice has adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 with quite breathtaking speed.

The way that GPs and their staff have adapted and managed the significant changes enforced by COVID-19 has been amazing.

I think it is appropriate to acknowledge the very hard work that has been carried out by primary care staff in daytime and out-of-hours services.

Most staff went without public holidays for six months, primary care staff have largely provided cover for the COVID hubs and non-COVID-19 patient care never stopped being provided.

In my practice, I have been pleasantly surprised by how positively our patients have accepted these changes.

There has been a realisation of the need for change and often an appreciation that different ways of delivering care can work well for both clinicians and patients.

I feel that COVID-19 will cause enduring changes, which may have been on the horizon anyway, but have been brought forward with remarkable speed. 

These changes and the pace at which they have been achieved shows the strength of our current model of care delivery, with rapid decision-making which is informed by national guidance and delivered quickly based on local population needs.

We do, however, need to be mindful about those patients who are unable to manage with some of these changes and while accessing electronic consulting.

NHS Near Me can be easy for some, and others may not have access or be able to use these platforms, so we will continue to push for better digital access for all and ensure that digital consulting is not the only option for patients.

Health and Social Care Workforce Wellbeing

The initial reduction in patient consultations within general practice as a result of COVID-19 reinforced the unsustainable levels of workload that GPs endured prior to this pandemic, and we have been given a fantastic opportunity to ensure that we do not return to this in the future.

Additionally, the importance of wellbeing and valuing our own health has been brought into focus, and I’d like to draw your attention to the newly launched Health and Social Care Workforce Wellbeing line.

This is a national wellbeing telephone helpline which sits within NHS 24’s mental health hub and complements the support which is already available through the National Wellbeing Hub.

The helpline is available to all members of the health and social care workforce and will route callers to a team of Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners who can provide psychological first aid, advice, signposting and onward referral to local services if required.

This service is available on a 24/7 basis and will initially be in place for a period of 12 months. You can access support via 0800 111 4191.

General Medical Council National Training Survey

I wanted to let you know that the General Medical Council’s (GMC) 2020 national training survey is currently running.

I understand that this year’s survey is shorter than in recent years and should take less than 10 minutes to complete.

The survey covers a broad range of areas, from workload and wellbeing to specific questions around the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on training.

Those of you who are currently trainees or are involved in training have until Wednesday 12 August to take part and more information can be found on the GMC website

I wanted to finish my contribution this week by adding that the way that general practice has risen to the challenge of COVID-19 has been wonderful to witness.

The understated way in which GPs have just got on with their work, continuing to care for their patients, and adapting to new ways of working has been fantastic.

I feel very privileged to be a member of such a brilliant profession.

Post written by

Dr Alasdair Forbes, Deputy Chair of RCGP Scotland

Dr Forbes has been a GP partner at his Aberdeen GP practice since 1994, serving the suburban population of north Aberdeen and the rural population of Aberdeenshire.

Alongside working as a GP, and providing a minor surgery service for his patients, Dr Forbes is a lead trainer in his practice and has tutored undergraduate medical school students.

He is passionate about growing and retaining the GP workforce and chairs the College’s Recruitment and Retention Advisory Group. Dr Forbes has been involved with RCGP Scotland for many years, holding a number of positions at local and national board levels.

Dr Forbes also chairs his local Faculty Board in North East Scotland.


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