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The faintest of silver linings



Every cloud has one, they say, but it’s quite difficult to see anything shiny in the monumentally vast cumulus hanging over the world at the moment.

Recently, though, The Guardian reported a reduction in nitrogen dioxide levels in China, since the cessation in industrial activity due the lockdown caused by coronavirus. A similar reduction in pollutants has been reported in other countries in lockdown, such as Italy and now the UK.

There has even been suggestion that this reduced air pollution in China may have prevented between 50 and 75,000 pollution related deaths.

People are driving and flying much less, and maybe when this is all over they’ll decide that more work can be done over the internet, and that not all the travelling they did for work in the past was strictly necessary. Maybe then, long term, the planet will gain.

Certainly in general practice, our ‘normal’ has changed beyond all recognition. For a while now, all of our consultations have been by telephone. I’ve been surprised about how many patients can be treated without a face-to-face consultation, and by the reduction in minor self-limiting problems I’ve encountered. Is it too much to hope, that at the end of this pandemic, patients may continue to self-manage trivial conditions and only present to us with problems that genuinely need our attention?

I’ve been surprised by the reduction in minor self-limiting problems

With the closure of restaurants and bars, restricted access to takeaways, and with a surplus of time at home, perhaps people will learn how to cook proper meals for themselves, then sit down as a family to eat them?

Adversity sometimes brings out the best in people, and we’re already seeing societies mobilise to look after the weakest, eldest and sickest. It may be that when this awful situation is over, some of this newfound sense of community lingers and helps to improve the lives of those who lived in self-isolation long before anybody had heard of Covid-19.

This is all speculation. For the time being, those on the healthcare frontline need the equipment and support to do their monumentally difficult job.

And for those doctors who aren’t part of the solution – you’re part of the problem. CQC, this means you.

Dr David Turner is a GP in North West London