Flood-struck Cumbrian GPs battling 'complete wipe-out'
By Nigel Praities
Exclusive: GPs at the centre of the flooding in Cumbria have described how they are coping with a ‘complete wipeout' of health services in the area.
Speaking exclusively to Pulse, Dr John Howarth, the lead GP in the worst hit area, said they had relocated their practices to a local hospital and have drawn up emergency plans to care for the people in Cockermouth.
‘GPs, pharmacies, opticians – everything came to a full-stop. It was a complete wipe-out of services for 15,000 people. Like every practice we had business continuity plans, but they were completely irrelevant. We had to start with a blank piece of paper,' he said.
‘We have managed to retrieve some of our IT systems and have relocated to a community hospital and have gone from 29 rooms to four.'
Dr Howarth says they do not expect to be able to move back into their practices for at least a year, and they are working on vaccinating priority groups and volunteers against flu and pneumonia.
‘We have gone into prevention mode. We have created lists of all vulnerable groups, such as the elderly. All our COPD patients have nurses ringing them to check they are alright and they have medication,' he added.
Dr Howarth has served in 11 wars – including those in Lebanon, Chechnya and Afghanistan – and says this experience has prepared him for the challenge of making sure there is no excess mortality.
‘I came to Cockermouth for a quiet life,' he said. 'But that hasn't worked out.'Dr John Howarth, NHS Cumbria's lead GP in Cockermouth (left), with NHS Cumbria's medical director Dr Mike Bewick Dr John Howarth, NHS Cumbria's lead GP in Cockermouth (left), with NHS Cumbria's medical director Dr Mike Bewick