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Working life: Grenfell remembered

Dr Yasmin Razak on caring for a community blighted by tragedy

Monday
I work in a fantastic area of west London, just off Portobello Road. But it’s also an area marred by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and one with some of the highest levels of deprivation in the city.

The fire and the subsequent pandemic have left many residents with severe anxiety and to support them, the practice offers extra appointments and in-house services. During lockdown, we provided Zoom mindfulness sessions and we now offer massage therapy. It is a relaxing way to unwind and takes the pressure off stressed patients who might not want to talk. 

On Mondays, we take residents on practice walks around the local gardens, another great way to unwind. I often encourage my own staff – who work so hard – to join in, especially during challenging weeks. We’ve been preparing our support services for the concluding part of the Grenfell inquiry and the recent milestone of the five-year anniversary, as we know some patients will need to access them for the first time. 

We also offer outreach visits to people who don’t feel ready yet to step outside. I find a cup of tea and a listening ear goes a long way to making a person feel supported. 

Tuesday
To address inequality and improve lives in the community, we work with organisations across the education, housing and voluntary sectors. An example of this work was co-delivery of the Covid vaccine rollout, where we had widespread uptake.

We’re very fortunate to have brilliant in-house therapists to help us close the gaps in our service, such as in mental health support, the community’s most common comorbidity. I’ve recently turned my focus to mental health and I really admire our new ARRS mental health nurses and therapists, who work so hard to meet this patient need. 

Wednesday
Today is a busy day. As well as attending the paediatric hub with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, where we create care plans with specialist input, I’m co-chairing a training forum on long Covid. This evening, I’m also running an asthma group consultation at the school most affected by the Grenfell fire, which we designed with the teachers and respiratory team.

I look forward to tomorrow’s hypertension hub. Collaborating with our hypertension consultant will hopefully save lives, and it’s great to see our trainees inspired by this environment. 

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As a GP trainer and training hub chair, I feel privileged to work with expert multidisciplinary teams and students. This helps me stay on top of my long-term condition knowledge and focus on solutions by asking, ‘What can we do better?’ 

Thursday
Staff burnout is real and was not helped by negative press coverage during the pandemic, which pitched patients against primary care staff even though we worked tirelessly. 

But today, we are given a much-needed boost by the patient survey results. Surprisingly, our PCN achieved the highest overall levels for patient satisfaction in the region. It’s fantastic to learn that our tailored community approach with enhanced access is appreciated by patients – and this is something we will continue to build on. A celebratory team outing is pencilled in the diary!

Friday
Volunteering and primary care go hand in hand – and Notting Hill Carnival is a great example of this, with people from all parts of the community coming together to offer time and resources. 

I’m overseeing a pre-carnival health check stall on Portobello Road. With our crew of student doctors and community champions from organisations such as One You and Helpforce, we check people’s blood pressures and heart rhythms. Link workers are on hand to signpost people to other services if need be. So, what could possibly go wrong? Well, today’s first patient – whose ECG shows fast AF – is signposted to A&E but declines to attend! We also pick up 32 hypertension cases. 

We now plan to run the stall on the last Friday of every month, so please come and join us on Portobello if you’re in the area. 

Profile: Dr Yasmin Razak

Roles: GP principal, Golborne Medical Centre, west London; GP trainer, Imperial College London; Clinical director [at time of writing], Neohealth PCN; Training hub chair, West London GP Federation

Hours worked: 8am to 7pm , although this varies

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