If we’re not fully in a winter of discontent, then we’re certainly in an autumn of feeling pretty pissed off.
As I write, the corona-forecasters are suggesting we’ll soon be back to where we were in spring. From where I sit in my primary care bunker, though, it’s looking far worse than that.
True, we coped with the first wave, just, and we’ve learned a lot about how to manage the disease itself. But you don’t have to be a card-carrying doomster to realise other factors will inevitably conspire against us.
The weather and the dark, for a start. Those sun-blessed Government-mandated exercise sessions of May will be a distant memory as we shiver and grumble in the cold, damp gloom of December – a time enjoyed only by Strictly addicts and viral illnesses.
Speaking of which, there’ll also be flu to contend with: the illness itself, the vastly expanded immunisation programme and the fun of trying to distinguish it from Covid-19, particularly if the testing fiasco becomes a long-running winter pantomime.
What else? Well, just off the top of my head: we’ll have appraisals and CQC visits restarting, a new torrent of guidelines, protocols and standard operating procedures, the zombie-QOF back to haunt us, 111 pushing potential A&E attenders in our direction, a million new ways for secondary care to dump on us and, I’m guessing here, product shortages of all antidepressants, not least because we’ll be mainlining them ourselves. And all this with staff shortages caused by the dreaded virus itself or by colleagues having to make 300-mile pilgrimages to get a swab.
Plus, of course, there’s the significant fact that the Government’s mantra has flip-flopped from ‘steer clear of the health service unless you’re dying’ to ‘don’t ignore the slightest symptom because it might kill you’. And just in case that fire needed any fuel, there was that communication from on high implying primary care has completely forgotten there’s a real world of F2F available to augment the diagnostic possibilities of the virtual medicine previously espoused by Mad Hatcock – which neatly translated into ‘GPs are lazy sods’ headlines (check your fish-and-chip wrapper if you’ve forgotten, but you won’t have). So no wonder the public has gone from happy clappy to sticky booty.
All of which is giving me those palpitations, night sweats and waves of nausea that so characterised the early weeks of the pandemic. It makes me very angsty about how we’re expected to survive the stress, assuming we survive the Covid.
Is there anything the Government could do to stop those NHS rainbows becoming storm clouds? Well, we haven’t had a new slogan for a while. And previous attempts – ‘Save the NHS’, then ‘Save yourselves’ – have been binary and contradictory. We need something more nuanced, something that encourages, say, an awareness of the risk of coronoviral hypoxia, while subliminally discouraging indiscriminate use of health services and cleverly asking the powers-that-be to let us get on with our jobs . So if you’re listening, Department of Health, can I suggest, ‘Save your breath’?
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield