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Can we swap the clap for the NHS for a dose of the old normal?



I need psychological help. True, I have managed to move through the gears of Covid grief, arriving, I hope, at ‘acceptance’.

But that acceptance doesn’t stretch to certain words or phrases. For example, I’d be happy never to hear again ‘Covid’ and ‘coronavirus’ (obviously), ‘the new normal’, ‘shielding’ (especially appended to ‘list’), ‘PPE’, ‘second wave’, ‘it’s a war’ and, bizarrely, ‘we have to finish the football season for the integrity of the game’ (which I’m suffering as some weird Scouse ear-worm, and has me wondering, where did this sudden pandemic of footballing integrity come from?)

I’d rather be listening to the sound of politicians’ heads being banged together at 8pm every Thursday

That’s strange enough. But here’s where I really need psychoanalysis. Because, and I realise I’m in a minority of one here, I wish the Thursday ‘Clap for the NHS’ would stop. I fear for what this says about me.

Admittedly, the first time I heard it, it brought a lump to my throat. The second time – I hadn’t realised there was to be a second time – I thought: ‘Oh. They’re doing it again.’ But now, every Thursday at 8pm, I stick my fingers in my ears and hum.

I feel awful even saying this, and have thought long and hard about possible explanations, such as:

  • Dutiful repetition of a kind act loses impact and meaning after a while.
  • The inevitable drop-off in participation over time will reach a point where it’ll just be awkward.
  • Guilt that, while I’m on the ‘front line’, the bullets are not raining down on me anything like as hard as they are on my colleagues in A&E, ITU, ambulances etc – whom, for the avoidance of doubt, I am mentally applauding constantly, not just at 8pm on a Thursday. And if they find the Thursday thing genuinely lifts their spirits, ignore everything I’m saying.
  • It might become like the cake brought every Christmas by an elderly patient for something you once did years ago, which morphs into a sort of health insurance policy.
  • I’m actually stuck in denial, and that repeated weekly reminder is like a depressing radio report that I can’t switch off.
  • I’d rather be listening to the sound of politicians’ heads being banged together at 8pm every Thursday because of the PPE fiasco (I understand that the eye protectors are incredibly clear, and perhaps that’s why I haven’t seen one).

Or maybe it’s just that you can only take so much thanks. I wish we’d spread the love a bit wider – to shop workers, carers, bus drivers and so on. Or even to people like the poor self-employed bloke I’ve just had a telephone consultation with. He needed to offload some stress which he neatly summed up with a weeping: ‘I’ve got three kids and I just don’t know how I’m going to put food on the table.’

Even then, he finished by thanking me for the great job the practice is doing. He needed that applause. Though what he got was a follow-up text with a self-help leaflet attachment, because that’s what we’ve been reduced to.

Whatever. Maybe I really am in acceptance, and I’m just reverting to curmudgeonly type. It’s the old normal. And hey, that’s real progress, right?

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield

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