Reflections on the pandemic: Dr Raj Chandok, London NHS General Practitioner, discusses his experience.

Reflections on the pandemic: Dr Raj Chandok, London NHS General Practitioner, discusses his experience.

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The impact of this pandemic, first and foremost is, of course, the tragic loss of lives and my heart goes out to all those that have lost loved ones to Covid-19, the effect upon them is immeasurable.

This pandemic has been the greatest challenge to our health and care system. Nationally and globally, the pandemic poses an unprecedented challenge to our health care systems, societies and economies, causing lost learning and impacting the education of our children and affecting lives, liberties and livelihoods.

Those of us who are working in the NHS always put patient care at the heart of everything we do, caring for our patients is a privilege. The NHS has risen to the challenges and as we headed into the second wave, we were better prepared.

The key priority for London General Practices currently is ensuring that all their most vulnerable patients are vaccinated, ensuring that they receive two doses twelve weeks part, a severe Covid illness is closely correlated to increasing age and a presence of underlying conditions. Hence over the last few weeks, my team have been focussed on ensuring that all our ‘at risk’ patients are offered a vaccine at our local vaccination hub, where I have also volunteered and given vaccinations. I have been visiting my housebound patients in the last few weeks, and have vaccinated close to 100 of my patients, these are my patients who are too frail or have limited mobility and cannot attend our local vaccination hub.

It is also very important that we look after the NHS staff. In our general practice in Southall, Ealing, I lead a team of 40 colleagues comprising nurses, administration & management staff and doctors. My team are a resilient bunch but equally they are vulnerable, I have a responsibility to support and protect them during this pandemic, looking after their mental and physical wellbeing has been a priority for me since March last year, ensuring we always have adequate PPE, checking on staff morale, and supporting all who are anxious.

The late Captain Sir Tom Moore was quoted as saying “I was one of the people out on the front. At the moment, the National Health Service are the people out on the front”. This quote associates the service of soldiers during the world wars and that of NHS workers during this pandemic, so on behalf of all NHS colleagues, let me pay tribute to the late exceptional centenarian and NHS fundraiser known affectionately as Captain Tom, his fundraising and appreciation of the efforts of NHS workers, is truly appreciated by all of us in the NHS. There has been a huge role played in this pandemic by all key workers and carers, there were many uncertainties at the start of the pandemic and hence the dedication to serve whilst facing individual risks was extraordinary. Many NHS and key workers have died and their heroic sacrifices must be remembered forever. At the start of the pandemic last year, one of my neighbours made a visor for me, this was such a sincere gesture.

The UK has the highest death toll in Europe and the 5th highest in the world from Covid-19. And as the recent report Build Back Fairer: The Covid-19 Marmot Review states, conditions and inequalities in key areas of life prior to the pandemic – including education, occupation and working conditions, income, housing communities and health itself – relate to England’s high and unequal mortality rate from Covid-19. We must re-double our efforts to address such conditions and inequalities.

Looking ahead, the constructive challenge is to learn from inadequacies and failures of policy and planning at the start of this pandemic whilst sharing the transferable principles of our successes. Parallel efforts to achieve global immunity as well as national immunity via vaccines are the key to successfully emerge from this pandemic, it is clear now that a collaborative global vaccination effort over the next 2 years is critical. As Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission put it eloquently ‘A global pandemic requires a world effort to end it – none of us will be safe until everyone is safe’.

Dr Raj Chandok has worked in the NHS for 25 years and been the Lead GP Partner at his practice for 20 years. From 2012 – 2020, Raj served as Vice-Chair of NHS Ealing CCG, led on diabetes strategy in Ealing, published several peer reviewed research papers on diabetes strategy and integrated care, he played a leading part in the award winning North West London Diabetes programme. He lives with his wife Stephanie and their 4 children in Parsons Green. Raj comes from a family of medics, his father, mother, and late brother Bikram, have collectively provided over 120 years of service to the NHS.#

Image credit: DR RAJ CHANDOK FRCGP FRSA MSc,  GP PRINCIPAL, DR G. SINGH & PARTNERS

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