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Pick up the phone

Updated: May 1, 2020

Today has been in the diary for months as possibly the most exciting day of my career, when I was due to stand up in front of 100 or so medical colleagues and deliver a workshop on sustainable healthcare, as a culmination of OSMP's green health project, that is now...drumroll please...nearly one year old! Don't worry there's a celebratory first birthday blog planned, and yes there'll be a massive palm-oil-free cake and zero-plastic glitter. And maybe even some party treats for my team too, ha ha!

Friends will confirm how I had painstakingly planned various hands-on games and a fun ice breaker (normally hate these for their hyperbolic cringe-value, and therefore was determined to make a very excellent one fit for even the shyest of shrinking violets). Anyway, like everyone else who's had to deal with the frustration of cancelled work/events/plans, after a brief cry, I've accepted that COVID-19 is like unwanted sudden attrition on our seemingly perfect riverbend: it's wearing down our usual dependable structures and leaving us with something different, a new sort of ox-bow lake (yr 9 geography, thank you), which in the end we will appreciate and adapt to.

Ah, those silver linings again, a source of cheerful surprise springing from the murky depths of the news headlines. Local shops turning into delivery outlets or takeaways, and people extending the hand of friendship to neighbours they didn't really know before. And work practices changing, for instance, even on a home-schooling day I can attempt to take part in the weekly Practice meeting through the magical medium of Zoom. Sat smugly in the kitchen wearing the only outfit other than scrubs to leave my wardrobe these days: T-shirt on top and pyjamas under the table (high-five everyone); I position the phone to hide breakfast dishes, laundry (both clean and dirty), and any junior editors who might wander curiously in; and attempt to make professional conversation whilst distracted by a large blob of jam on the table. This is where we hatch our plans, COBRA-like, discussing what has changed and what we need to do this week to care for our patients and look after our staff.

We've stopped using our waiting rooms and public toilets, and patients are met in the carpark and brought straight into a consultation room. And the INR drive-through has been bloody brilliant (sorry). Your friendly GPs are wearing scrubs and taking care to avoid cross-contamination in other rooms where possible. There are even rules about not wearing scrubs home, and showering before coming into contact with any other household members. Sometimes tricky though for those of us lucky enough to have a meet-and-greet party hanging out of upstairs windows, and I've found it essential to utter those famous Tammy Wynette lyrics "don't touch me" combined with air kisses, and then forge a kamikaze route to the washing machine to deposit my colourful sack of work-clothes. This completes the loop of irony, where not only myself but now my clothes have to be separately quarantined away from the rest of the world, followed by full submersion of myself in a 60-degree shower.

Ok, I'm joking about the temperature. Please don't try that at home; I'm in a position of trust and wouldn't dare suggest anything so utterly stupid as covering yourself in, or ingesting/injecting a dangerous liquid, thereby needing medical attention. Ahem. But this does bring me nicely to my next point, which is that the NHS is open for business. A friend told me "I no longer have any handle on what we're supposed to do health-wise for anything other than COVID". Yes, it's true, things seemed frantic and unclear initially, but let me reassure you we now have telephone appointments flowing even quicker than the side-stepping obfuscations from the minister giving the daily briefing. Our message is that you should ring your GP for anything you would have wanted to see us about before COVID. Basically, call us! Our excellent receptionists will advise you if you need a telephone callback (usually same day - hooray!), or if your appointment is for e.g. immunisations, a cervical smear, a B12 injection, or a routine blood test - when this needs to be done.

Back to my cancelled workshop. It will happen. Don't know when, but it's going to be a cracker. Listen, this virus has shown us how fragile the healthcare system is: testing, ventilators, the elusive messiah-like vaccine - all cost time and money. And in order for our NHS to continue and thrive, we need to nurture it. This is the meat and bones of sustainable healthcare (I am shouting now). So I don't have a podium decorated with go-faster stripes and flanked by two harangued-looking and hastily socially-distanced hitherto-unknown officials, and maybe I have to chumpishly change my own slides when doing a presentation, but when the message of eco-healthcare finds its way out there, OSMP will be in the vanguard. And I'm not talking about York's newest retail park.

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