Dr Rumina Önaç, GP and Green Impact for Health lead at The Old School Medical Practice in York has shared her detailed experience of caring for patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a blog article posted on the NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) website, Dr Önaç gives an open account of the challenges, irritations and positive outcomes which have impacted on how the primary care environment works.
Dr Önaç said: “Whilst lockdown forced the swift reconfiguration of our appointment lists, surgeries worked incredibly hard to find workarounds enabling us to continue to care for patients and protect staff, despite the restrictions.
“Walking through deserted waiting rooms, seeing closed doors and ‘no entry’ signs everywhere, deliberately keeping patients waiting outside rather than welcoming them into our buildings, and avoiding physical contact wherever possible. No human touch. That goes against everything it means to be a doctor!”
However an understanding of patients’ needs has allowed Dr Önaç and her colleagues across practices in the Vale of York to keep up a positive relationship with their patients. She said:
“We’re lucky to get to know patients and families over a number of years, gaining an insight into not just their symptoms but their background, support network, and their highs and lows. This means we have a lot of very useful information to knit together when we’re trying to help patients shape solutions for whatever it is that might be worrying them.”
New ways of working have been put in place within GP surgeries, including an increased uptake of video and telephone appointments. This has enabled concerned patients to be seen without having to leave home and travel to a surgery. Dr Önaç explains some of the other ways patient care has continued:
“Medicines are being dispensed through reception hatch windows at The Old School Medical Practice, or even home-deliveries for some very rural patients up in Stillington, and plenty of consultations have been done through glass doors or windows.”
Dr Önaç also mentions those patients who will have missed the face-to face interaction with their GP practice, such as those with long term conditions, who often feel more of a benefit and reassurance from seeing their nurse or GP in person.
“Staff roles have altered, there have been lists solely devoted to ringing patients with chronic conditions to provide reassurance and offer alternatives like vitamin B12 tablets instead of 3-monthly injections, and reception staff have been key in explaining what to expect when visiting the surgery for patients who do end up coming down for face-to-face appointments. Teams have devised drive-through blood taking clinics and immunisation clinics”
Dr Önaç predicts that the overwhelming camaraderie and enthusiasm to create new ways of doing things will outlast this pandemic, a demonstration of the how well all primary care staff have adapted to new roles and responsibilities to keep primary care running as safely and smoothly as possible.
“Whatever the ‘new normal’ looks like, whenever it occurs, it’s gladdening to know that some of the changes we’ve made are truly improvements that will benefit patients and staff alike, and we should be very proud not only of Primary Care’s swift response to the pandemic, but of our subsequent and ongoing innovation.”
To read the blog ‘Dr Rumina Önaç – After the apocalypse’ in full please visit the NHS Vale of York CCG website: www.valeofyorkccg.nhs.uk/after-the-apocalypse/