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COVID: How Life of a Doctor Has Changed.

COVID…COVID…COVID. Does anyone else feel if they hear that one more time….Well, to add to the mass hysteria, I am indeed writing about the dreaded beast.

I don’t think any one of us could have anticipated this year. We are certainly being victims to this mother of viruses.

For some, I know things are devastatingly hard to be self isolating, having no work, and worrying about what is to become. For others, they are blossoming in this time to reflect, and work on themselves.

For me and many of my friends in the medical world, things are the same, yet not so. It is hard to explain the emotions we go through. Some days, we are living life pretty normally and all is fine. Other days, the anxiety and stress gets to us also.

Personally, I have had to change my home temporarily to get to work more easily, as usually it takes me over an hour to get to work on public transport. However, due to reduced services I needed to make the decision to move closer to work and luckily have managed to do so.

Work has drastically changed for me. Half my week I spend with the NHS, the other half in theatre/filmmaking. So, half my week has vanished on a practical sense, but I am trying to use that time to write and have finished my feature film which I am hoping to get made this summer, so there is a positive there. The half in the NHS, well I don’t know really where to begin.

I currently work in a clinic for CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health), but also have the option to work in A+E, forensic wards (patients with a criminal background), geriatric wards (such as dementia), male and female wards, as well as the section 136 suites (police bring patients on a Section 136 for mental health assessments). Since the governments move to lockdown, the clinic I work for, have tried their best to work similar to GPs, in moving most consultations over the phone to help reduce risk of COVID Spreading. This creates a number of problems. It can be difficult to asses patients safely as a doctor on the phone, as its incredibly important to get most communication from facial expressions, body languages, eye contact, if there is perceptual disturbances of hallucinations I won’t be able to see that over a phone. Medical-legally I don’t know where we stand on providing, or changing medications over a phone without physically reviewing the patients, with no physical examinations. It can be quite hard to even get patients on a phone, which you wouldn’t think, and having a formal appointment face to face tends to be more effective. We still of course see patients face to face, and try to do this in only urgent emergency situations, but that comes with its own concerns with lack of PPE.

We have been attempting to work like this for the last few weeks, and we are unsure how long we will continue in this manner. It is lonely when I come to work, yesterday I was the only doctor in, and there was only one therapist and one nurse. It’s a shock to the system as this is a large clinic with huge teams of a three and half year waiting list. We still have referrals coming in, plus out current case loads of hundreds of patients plus whatever happens on the day. One day I had an emergency in which it took 9 hours to deal with, and I had to cancel my routine clinic, which will then add pressure on me to catch up on another clinic day in between other patients.

What I worry about most, is what will happen post COVID? The world will carry on, but I don’t quite know how the NHS will catch up. We are under such pressure pre-COVID, surely that will mean it will magnify post? Also we as staff are giving up our annual leave in order to help on the frontline in this crisis, but staff will burn out and after this is finished, we will all want our leave, then our with the service cope?

I am concerned for the patients at home self isolating, many from difficult backgrounds or homes of abuse. What happens to them? I can’t see the bruises, I can’t see the effects. You can only get a little from the phones, and the ones I want to see in person, I can’t get hold of, or refuse to come in for fear of COVID. It’s a lose-lose situation.

But mostly I worry for my colleagues, many of which have had COVID and are trying to just look after themselves as well as work from home. I fear for us all.

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