A north-east GP has told of how Covid-19 has changed the working lives of healthcare professionals.
As healthcare services have had to adapt to the changing situation, more and more consultations have been held online via virtual consultation software, eliminating some of the need for face-to-face discussions.
Dr Emma Houghton, of the Laurencekirk Healthcare Centre outlined what an average day in the life of a GP looks like at the moment.
She said: “Throughout the pandemic all of us in Primary Care have been working harder than ever to support all of the people in our communities that need it. GP practices have changed a lot over the last few years, gone are the days of practices with one or two GP, district nurse and plenty of time! Even very small, rural practices have many, ever more complex, cases, clinics, and tasks.
“My own practice has a patient roll of 6,000 and there are four GP Partners of which I am one. We also have a wider Primary Care team directly employed by the practice, made up of two ANPs, two practice nurses, one healthcare assistant, one pharmacist, nine reception staff and a practice manager, and each and every one of us is vital in delivering care.”
Despite the suspension of many services, GPs have continued to be as busy as ever, filling out prescriptions and speaking to patients.
Technology has adapted in a way that wasn’t expected, with services such as Near Me being increasingly used, and has been described as a “game changer”, although it took some getting used to.
She added: “As a GP partner I have a responsibility to the practice and our staff to ensure that the practice as a whole is well run and that we have all the resources we require. This can take up a large amount of time and like many others I often find myself undertaking admin tasks in the evenings or at weekends.
“However, the biggest and most fulfilling part of my job is still patient care. We are currently delivering that care in a number of new ways, technology has been a godsend and has allowed us to continue to see a large number of patients via NHS Near Me (video apps).
“Initially many were hesitant to use Near Me, however, it really has been a game changer, being able to see and hear a patient is really important as we can pick up on things like the colour and breathing of a patient; we can see a rash and make judgements about treatment, we can assess movement etc. And we still have the good old telephone!
“A huge number of my appointments are now done on the phone and, with support from community pharmacy, patients can get the treatments and medications they need quickly. Of course, it is really important to remember that anyone one of my phone or video appointments could be converted into a face-to-face appointment at the surgery if I feel it is needed.”
A regular day now involves phone consultations and Near Me appointments, however, still retains some of the normal features of a pre-covid time.
An average day in Dr Houghton’s day included 28 phone consultations, two Near Me appointments, one coil insertion, one face-to-face examination, 15 lab results to action, one home visit to a palliative patient, several referrals and consultations with other colleagues, and 200 prescriptions signed.
Dr Houghton said: “Our home visits are now only for very frail, housebound patients or palliative patients. Care for palliative patients can be challenging, however respecting the wishes of individuals, and loved ones, and being part of a team able to support people to die well, at home, is immensely rewarding.
“Overall Primary Care keeps on going because we must. Caring for our communities is a privilege and why we chose to go into this area of medicine, but I’m not going to lie, it is hard just now.
“I think we are all feeling the pressure that Covid-19 has brought and many are very worried about what winter will bring and how we continue to keep going at the pace we have been. As I have said, primary care will continue to rise to the challenges we are presented with but if I could ask one thing it would be that we all, colleagues, families, patients, remember that we are all human and that a little patience and understanding can go a long way.”