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'A GP for 30 years and I have never known anything like it'

West End GP Dr Isabelle Cullen writes about the challenges of Covid and working as a family doctor during the health emergency.

Last week I was lucky enough to be one of the first NHS staff to receive my Covid vaccine, writes Isabelle Cullen.

I arrived at the Louisa Jordan Hospital at the SEC for my 7pm appointment. It was a cold and dark evening. 

Usually being dropped outside the Hydro at this time of year, I would be heading for a Christmas night out but not this year. December feels very different for most of us, I think. 

It is hard to describe the last few months without falling into the trap of clichés. 

I have now worked as a GP in Hyndland Rd for 30 years and I have never known anything like it: from the anxiety of February and March when a pandemic seemed likely, to the ongoing grind of lockdown and varying restrictions. 

As well as the devastating effects of this awful illness, I have also seen the dramatic associated problems such as the terrible surge in mental health problems.

In the surgery we have had to devise different ways of delivering care to our patients. 

Our priorities are to keep our patients safe as well as keeping ourselves safe so that we can continue to provide vital services. 

This has meant fewer face to face appointments – using phone and video consultations where possible. 

However, some patients do need to be seen face to face, and we have been trying to pace these appointments to reduce the number of patients in the surgery at any one time.

https://twitter.com/DrCullenSurgery/status/1337093183893856257?s=20
Isabelle receives her jag at the Louisa Jordan Hospital.

Appointments also take longer to allow for PPE and cleaning rooms and so there are fewer. 

Many routine hospital services were suspended for several months. Although most are starting up again there are significant back logs of both for consultations and various tests. 

Understandably this can lead to frustration for patients and staff alike. 

Despite these frustrations, I have found that the vast majority of people have shown real kindness and understanding. 

As well as the devastating effects of this awful illness, I have also seen the dramatic associated problems such as the terrible surge in mental health problems

Dr Isabelle Cullen

At a time when appointments can be difficult to access, most of the patients I speak to are full of gratitude for the service they are receiving and virtually every person will ask how we are coping as a staff. 

It is a privilege to work in such a warm, caring community.

I am lucky to have such a committed team who have worked through the pandemic to deliver care. 

Our next challenge will be to deliver the vaccine – one which we are ready for. 

'It is a privilege to work in such a warm, caring community.' Photo: O'Neil.
'It is a privilege to work in such a warm, caring community.' Photo: O'Neil.
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