Carmel Loughlin, practice manager, discusses how working in general practice at the moment reminds her of some classic television programmes and movies
When I was a lot younger (I’m maybe giving away my age here) one of my favourite programmes on TV was the Krypton Factor. The tension and frustration were palpable; whilst I was sitting on my sofa at home I used to try to do the tasks in my head. I loved the programme and still have that competitive edge when trying to do quizzes or other tasks. Little did I realise then that this programme would come in useful in my working life – the task of organising ‘flu and COVID booster vaccination clinics.
For the past four weeks I have taxed my brain working out the best way to get 4.5k patients in and out of our very busy surgery with the least amount of stress for them; the staff stress I can do very little about except to employ experts in the field to do the webinar Zooms on stress management and resilience! I find Zoom so stressful that these two statements seem to be in direct conflict, I am ashamed to say. My skin goes bright red on the webcam and I look permanently embarrassed, or look like I have had a bad day with the makeup – either way not a pretty sight.
The task involved (using my best Gordon Burns voice) is to organise those who need ‘flu jabs and those who need COVID boosters to attend the surgery. It sounds simple until you throw in the nuances of:
- they have to be six months since their last vaccine;
- you have to try to accommodate ‘flu and COVID at the same time;
- patients getting the ‘flu jab can leave immediately but COVID vaccine patients cannot;
- you must be able to accommodate all those patients who have had a COVID vaccine to wait for 15 minutes.
I could add any number of other conditions to this list but the old saying ‘teaching your granny to suck eggs’ comes to mind. I now wake up at four am. thinking ‘Did I check that that group already had the ‘flu/COVID jab’ and that they hadn’t already refused.’ Permutations run riot while I try to get much needed sleep. My brain never seems to switch off anymore and my attempts at meditation are laughable.
We were also informed that, despite this massive workload, we also be required to complete elements of QOF. This is in the middle of a pandemic, a huge vaccination campaign and the usual winter pressures. I have to say this nearly put me over the edge this week. The workload is unmanageable at present. I don’t know if there is a webinar to help with that, but I fear that if I put 50 managers in the room we may need either wine or Kleenex or both.
I have now resorted to watching less demanding TV; Married At First Sight UK or Australia is now as challenged as my brain gets. Being unable or unwilling to think when I get home means my personal development is out the window. My friends look at me in horror when they ask for a Netflix recommendation – but what I can say? My overactive brain needs an underactive activity to recuperate before I start the Krypton Factor day job. The complications of love and attraction are as much as I can cope with come 7pm.
While I rest on the sofa nursing my tea/wine/chocolate I contemplate learning French or the piano. I wonder how complicated it would be in comparison to the 5,000 permutations of ‘flu and COVID boosters. I think about which programme/movie would reflect the daily work of GPs and staff – handling hundreds of calls, requests for letters, vaccinating, triaging, prescribing, examining and all the other tasks they are asked to do – all the while pulling off the grand illusion to the Daily Mail et al that they are closed, with their feet on their desks not doing anything.
I think there was a movie called ‘Now You See Me‘ which involved illusionists robbing banks etc. A sequel could easily be written to show the GPs and practice staff in a real-life surgery working from 8.30 to six pm, all while the public and media report ‘General practice is closed’.
The staff in GP-land, be they grand illusionists or Krypton Factor wannabes, have never worked as hard while being scored nil points for their performance. We went to work when people locked their doors against COVID. We are asked to do the most impossible of jobs and yet we succeed at every task. Surely there’s a TV show or a movie idea in that I asked myself?
Then I remembered one of my favourite movies – Mission Impossible!