'I'm a GP and everyone I work with has an impending sense of doom'

Jenny, a front line locum GP in south west England, speaks about her fears at what is to come

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Commuters at Leytonstone tube station on Tuesday morning, after PM Boris Johnson urged people to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic
Commuters at Leytonstone tube station on Tuesday morning, after PM Boris Johnson urged people to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic Credit: Jeff Moore

"Everyone I work with has an impending sense of doom at the moment. We are all scared of the unknown to come and anxiety levels are high.

“We’ve been talking to doctors in Italy and what they are describing seems apocalyptic. Now we’re anticipating the stream of our own cases that will need hospital treatment.

“All NHS staff are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of social distancing being practised by some. We have so many vulnerable scared patients who are staying at home, but unfortunately there are people who just don’t seem to understand the importance of social distancing right now.  

“People who are healthy want to continue with life as normal, but they need to stop being selfish and get indoors. They are putting everyone at risk including our frontline NHS staff. It is crucial that the spread of the virus is slowed down so our colleagues at the hospital are not totally overwhelmed and have a fighting chance. 

“Despite Boris Johnson’s announcement last night there are still images of London tube trains overflowing today and on my way to work the supermarkets had cars queuing out of the car park, which were already full .

“I don’t want to be the GP that has to tell patients that there is no hospital bed available and they will have to stay at home despite them desperately needing hospital intervention. 

“I work at lots of different GP surgeries as a locum and it’s amazing how everyone is pulling together. They’re not complaining, they’re putting their heads down and doing what they can for our patients. Many of us are working very long hours.

“Surgeries are ringing me all the time to do extra shifts, as are the out of hours services. Last week we closed the surgery doors and moved across to telephone triage. We are then bringing down patients we feel need to be seen by a doctor or nurse.

"Our patients have been understanding and realise the pressure we are under. Their anxiety levels are inevitably high as well . They still need access to a family doctor/ nurse and to get their medications . This is not just the virus . It is all the genuine patients that we see day in and day out before the virus hit . Their problems don’t go away. Sadly things may well be missed or delayed amid the pressure of dealing with coronavirus. 

“We’re seeing more and more cases of coronavirus by the day. We have to get kitted out in all the protective equipment before we go out to them waiting in their cars in a sectioned off area of the staff car park. Then we have to make the difficult decision as to whether they need go into hospital or they continue to be managed at home.

“If we see suspected cases in a room at the surgery it then has to be thoroughly cleaned, which is a very lengthy process.

“We have limited supplies of the specific cleaning materials and though we have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the moment if the number of cases begins to increase dramatically as expected that may not be the case.

“Of course we are all under a huge amount of pressure as doctors and health professionals. We’re anticipating having some very difficult conversations with families when the hospitals become full.

“We will be faced with many challenging ethical dilemmas. It is very upsetting and shocking to be told your illness cannot be cured. Normally one would be surrounded by close family and friends when they are unwell or dying . But with the current concerns of infection spreading this may be difficult both at the hospital and in the patient's home.

“My husband is also a doctor and we have three young children. We are very aware to keep chat of corona and our challenging day until they have gone to bed. We are trying to keep things as normal as possible for them .

“We are both very proud to be part of the NHS . It is incredible to see how everyone has come together and how rapidly adaptations have been made in hospitals and surgeries in preparation to fight the corona virus and continue to care for all our other patients.”