No-one could have ever anticipated the impact that the Coronavirus Pandemic would have on our lives when we first started to hear about it on the news. Keeping teams, families, patients and yourself sane and safe in addition to keeping up to date with the never-ending stream of updates and tasks has been more than a full time job. I wanted to share with you some of the things we have done to help us “Cope with Covid”.

The Team
Knowing our team, we expected that some people that would find the enormity of the virus difficult to comprehend and so from the outset, introduced a daily briefing. This briefing included a check in on everybody’s physical health and that of their families, updates from the previous day, changes in ways of working, the opportunity for questions to be asked and reassurance to be given. Our remote working colleagues joined via Zoom so it involves the whole team. We have since introduced a midday update for those joining us in the afternoon based on feedback the team gave.

For urgent communications we have a Covid Emergency WhatsApp Group which is there for urgent and important communications. We also have a more informal for morale and team spirit.

For assurance, we have carried out Risk assessments – initially, one we produced ourselves (in the absence of anything formal) and more latterly the NHS.

Very early on, we reviewed the options for working from home and made arrangements for this to happen where appropriate. We also changed roles, hours etc and included staff members with child care issues.

For any member of staff working from home we have daily catch ups, Zoom meetings and review regularly. They are also encouraged to come in to the practice where it is practical and possible to ensure that they remain included and maintain a high level of communication.

To support the mental health of our team, we have had daily lunchtime meetings outdoors (at a social distance) this has included lots of fun and games, yoga, stretches, charades, pizza, silent screaming and some days just simply enjoying the peace of the outdoors and sunshine. We have promoted wellbeing support available through the NHS and also talked about Mental Health during Mental Health week.

Where staff members have had symptoms or their family have, we have arranged the necessary cover and where required, testing. We feel fortunate to have not had a case of the virus at the practice but know that this is a very real possibility.

Digital capability

We have made big improvements with digital usage, some of which we were already working on. We have used Zoom and Microsoft teams for meetings which would ordinarily have been face to face as well as using this with our own team. We had already begun work on Electronic Repeat
Dispensing (ERD) but CV19 has somewhat forced our patients hand and despite having several teething problems are working on a longer term project to ensure that we continue with this “after Covid”.

We have also gone live with Doctor Link and installed AccuRx, the latter being of most benefit. We have been pleasantly surprised by the positive response from our older generation to virtual appointments and feel that AccuRx will help us manage Chronic Disease reviews and patient communication long into the future as our experience and knowledge grows.

Our patients have been fantastic! We have run a telephone triage service for many years and so this was less of a change for them to accept. We increased our phone lines and made more appointments available. We still bring patients down to the practice where necessary but by registering our patients for ERD, footfall has been kept to a minimum and using our telecon entry system we have been able to screen every person before the have been allowed access.

Our website and social media platforms have been well utilised to keep patients up to date with how are practice is running. We have also run 2 really successful Q&A sessions on Facebook and received excellent feedback from both patients and non-patients on how valuable this has been.

The leadership team have remained present in the practice throughout and partners have also been available via Zoom when working remotely. This has allowed us to provide operational as well as pastoral support and have remained visible and hands on to demonstrate “leading by example”. We have listened to feedback and answered every question clearly and honestly and on a couple of occasion been able to quash “myths” that have circulated to avoid panic.

Looking after me
As practice manager, I have endeavoured to maintain a positive and calming atmosphere. There have been times when I have been completely overwhelmed by the ridiculous volume of emails arriving and the short timescales we have been given in some instances. I have taken time out when it has been needed and learned to set aside time to make sure I can keep up to date. I am also comfortable with saying that my workload is overbearing at times and asked for help. I have tried to limit the number of times I have read my emails, checked my phone etc and also limited the amount of news I read and watch at home – there is a limit!

Team Oakwood are planning the biggest “after party” ever! During the time we have been locked down, our team have achieved so much – Pride of Doncaster awards, Diplomas, dissertations passed, OSCE’s passed (with Paddington bear as the patient!), “big” birthdays, and a Queen’s Nurse Award.
But we also need to celebrate how fantastic we have been. We have all had to adapt at an alarming pace, often without notice, and we have done it in true Team Oakwood spirit! Some people will think that I am crazy when I say that I am actually quite excited about what is happening at the moment and the future “post Covid” We are learning and changing on a daily basis and that can only be a good thing for the future of General Practice!