My first patient is a woman who works in healthcare. She has booked a face to face GP consultation. I see her in the waiting room: she’s breathless and coughing uncontrollably. With my mask, visor and apron on, I ask her to come through to my room. Experience tells me she has Covid-19.
I measure her vital signs. Her oxygen saturations are 94% on room air, which is low; I listen to her chest, which sounds fine. I tell her to go home and self-isolate, as per government guidelines, and prescribe some antibiotics.
I start my day with a parent whose child has a persistent fever and a sore throat. The mother refuses to consider that the child may have coronavirus. This is not the first time a patient or their parent/guardian has been dismissive of the existence of the virus and the fact that it can affect each and every one of us.
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I work in one of the most deprived parts of the UK, where we are faced with a lot of health inequalities. They stem from a number of factors including language barriers, cultural behaviours, socioeconomic factors and unconscious bias. I explain to the mother she must self-isolate with her child and others in their household until a Covid-19 test kit is sent to them. She is quite reluctant at first, but I manage to convince her to follow the national guidelines.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone in some way. I carry out a telephone consultation with a nurse who has been working on a Covid ward. She is not enjoying the environment at all. She is struggling to work with her colleagues, who she describes as being stressed and on edge. It has taken a toll on her mental health: she is unable to sleep and has panic attacks every time she enters the hospital. I give her a sicknote so she can take some time off to recharge, but also find another job.
I speak to a patient in her 80s who is having issues with her right knee. She is finding life a struggle, especially with lockdown, and has felt lonely due to the pandemic. This has been a recurring theme for most of my elderly patients this year. I ask her to come in to see me for a face to face consultation so I can assess her knee. I also make sure to address her feelings of isolation by referring her to some community groups.
A lot of patients are still apprehensive about going to A&E due to the fear of catching Covid-19. I see one patient who has classic symptoms of kidney stones. She has a fever, and is experiencing excruciating pain which is radiating from the back to the groin. The patient wants to try to avoid A&E so I organise some imaging to be done in an outpatient clinic. I make sure she knows to attend the emergency department if the fever persists and the pain worsens.
It’s the end of a stressful week, dealing with many patients’ emotions and stresses brought on by this pandemic. Most have said to me: “Can 2020 be wiped clean from the calendar, and can we start this year again in January?”