In December 2019, when I last saw my sister and her family, I noticed the news reports coming out of Wuhan, and a degree of concern was on the edge of my awareness, but I don’t think any of us really understood how life was about to change personally and professionally.
I’m a GP in North Wales and chair of the North Wales LMC local medical committee. The pandemic has challenged my medical colleagues and me in many ways. We have had to rapidly learn new ways of working, adopting some systems that are likely to stay with us as we hopefully move into a post pandemic world.
Some of the IT solutions have been game changing, others less so. Video consulting – much touted at the beginning of lockdown – has a role, but nowhere near as big a one as was expected.
As a GP the telephone remains a key part of our tool box. Calibrating when we need to see someone face to face is a process being continually refined.
General practice has responded rapidly and efficiently, and we have managed to maintain a good level of service, albeit differently delivered, in addition to playing a key part in the delivery of the vaccine programme. I’m proud to be part of this amazing yet often under-appreciated profession.
The stresses of the pandemic for those working within general practice have been huge, something I have seen both in the pastoral element of my LMC role and personally.
Like many healthcare workers my husband and I spent the early part of 2020 preparing for the worst, rewriting our wills and ensuring the children knew where important documents were.
My husband is a nurse and was seconded to the emergency department during the first peak. We instituted a home infection control policy, I adopted scrubs for work wear and now feel unclean if I don’t shower on arriving home.
We’ve been fortunate – we don’t think we have had COVID-19. Other colleagues have not been so fortunate, and I know many who have been unwell, remain unwell or have died.
We have seen patients we have known for years fall victim to the virus and have supported care home staff as the virus has decimated their residents. The long term psychological effects of living through this experience remain to be seen but will undoubtedly be significant.
My working life is now different in a way I would never have predicted. Prior to COVID-19 I had been unsettled in my partnership of 17 years for a while, but not to the point of leaving.
The pandemic response tore those cracks wide open and I am now in a supportive new partnership and have also been working in a managed practice for part of the week. I am professionally happier than I have been in a long time and am re-finding my love of both general practice and North Wales as I explore my new practice areas.
I doubt I would have taken this step without the final push given by the fallout of responding to the pandemic.
As we move into the spring of 2021 life seems more hopeful. The challenges ahead are numerous but general practice has shown it has the strength to face them.
Sara Bodey is a Flintshire GP