Covid: Some doctors are already in constant crisis mode – Dr Graeme Eunson

Last Saturday was World Mental Health Day, which I am sure will have resonated strongly with many of us this year, perhaps more than any other.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 12:30 pm
As the number of Covid cases rises once again, new restrictions are being imposed and health service staff are getting anxious about what lies in store for them (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
As the number of Covid cases rises once again, new restrictions are being imposed and health service staff are getting anxious about what lies in store for them (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

It’s a tough time for everyone. I am going to focus on the well-being of healthcare staff, but it would be wrong not to also acknowledge the impact that Covid and the new way we are having to live is having on everyone.

As a doctor, I feel like the pandemic has put us under immense pressure and scrutiny. Personally, I feel not least of that is the pressure we put on ourselves to do the best we possibly can to care for people in trying circumstances.

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It’s on that basis I know many colleagues will be viewing the recent rises in admissions to hospital as a result of Covid with a real sense of worry. Just yesterday there were an extra 570 patients in hospital, with 49 in ICU. It seems like a long time ago the numbers were below 50 – but in reality it was little more than a month ago.

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Of course, this will be primarily a concern for every patient and their families faced with battling Covid. But for health staff on the frontline, there is a growing fear around what this might mean for the NHS as we head into winter.

We know winter brings extra pressure across health services as flu and other illnesses take hold. NHS staff, wherever they work, know the challenges of finding beds and working flat out to simply keep our heads above water, care for people as best we can and make it through ourselves.

There isn’t usually any slack in the system or time for us to switch off whatsoever. Add in the need to keep extra capacity aside purely to deal with Covid and it’s pretty difficult not to be fearful of how the next few months might pan out.

I know doctors who are already feeling they are in constant crisis mode and are anxious about what may come, having had very little respite over the last 12 months. I want to use this opportunity to say to all NHS staff that these may be the toughest of times, but there is always someone who you can speak to.

Please do reach out for help. It’s ok to feel far from ok, and many of us will over the coming days and weeks.

I also hope that we can continue to maintain the real sense of partnership and mutual support I think we have enjoyed with the general public. I appreciate as the pandemic drags on that may seem harder and harder: staff feel nothing but empathy and sympathy for those frustrated that the NHS isn’t operating as normal.

But we are all doing our absolute best under the circumstances – in our hospitals, GP surgeries and in the community. Please bear with us and if you can, please remember the kind of pressures those in our health service are under.

World mental health day may have come and gone, but that core message of kindness, understanding and the need to support each other is something we need to stick with 365 days a year.

Dr Graeme Eunson is chair of the BMA’s Scottish consultants committee

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