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Some thoughts from a GP on the frontline

Posted Tuesday 14 April 2020

Today was my first shift working in a COVID Assessment Hub, a centre where GPs and other staff are deployed for assessing patients with respiratory symptoms, and those who are quarantined due to possible coronavirus contact within their households.

It’s a very different way of working to what we’re used to. To avoid bringing potentially infective patients into the building we’re doing most assessments through car windows in the car park, assessing those who can safely return home, and those who need to be directed to hospital. I’ve never worked like this in the UK before, and everyone is suddenly adapting to a very different system. People are understandably unsettled and it’s challenging, as it is for anyone involved in healthcare currently.

However, in the midst of this I am seeing some things that really encourage me, that give me hope and actually, a sense of joy despite the circumstances:

People are volunteering their time and energy to support the NHS like never before. We’ve had a volunteer driver to help make home visits, a first year medical student helping to record vital signs and just be an extra pair of hands, as well as the relatives of patients who are taking time to drive people in for assessment, take them to hospital etc.

GP Practices are working together in ways we’ve never had to before. All the surgeries within my working area are sending clinicians to work at the Hub. People are offering to cover shifts for other practices that are short-staffed. Contrast this with before, when it felt like you just worked for your surgery, and that other surgeries could generally sort out their own problems. Dare I say that there was occasionally even mistrust between surgeries, hospitals and community teams?

Now it really does feel like everyone is working with a common goal, and that differences which separated us previously are now seen as less important compared with the task at hand. Everyone is focussed on the Main Thing, making us realise that we all came into the health service with the same goal. It feels like everyone now has a bigger picture of working for the NHS, that we’re part of a massive, nationwide powerful organisation where we’re all involved in working for the benefit of our society.

I wonder if the season we’re in may have the same effect on churches, where we all focus on the Main Thing and forget some of the smaller issues that we previously disagreed on. Will people get the bigger picture, that whichever church you’re part of, we’re all part of a massive, worldwide organisation where we’re all involved in working for the benefit of our society and the transformation of lives?

We’re aware of the innovations that are taking place in both healthcare and church. Working online and new methods of communication is something that we hope can continue to be of benefit even after the current crisis has resolved. I’m hopeful that the adaptations made as emergency measures in this season will be of ongoing use in the years to come, and that good will arise from this.

However, I think that the greatest benefit that comes from this time may not be technological but psychological. We could see a change in attitude where we no longer have a tribal mentality, but that we’re all in this together. Wouldn’t it be great to look back at a time when we were in isolation, only to realise that from that came a greater sense of unity than we’ve ever had before? A kingdom mindset among churches, who all believe that together we have the power to bring heaven to earth, and a united health service that is cherished more than ever.

Wouldn’t that be working all circumstances for good?

Dr Dave Carter, Heaven in Healthcare Team