Over past few weeks we’ve all been hearing about how we will have to learn to live with Covid-19 well into the future.
For centuries we’ve had to learn to cope with many viruses and health issues and we’ve done it largely through advances in medicine and treatments, but also by changing our behaviours and following unwritten rules – isolating and staying away from school or work and getting tested and immunised to avoid spreading disease to others.
It is widely understood by experts that the coronavirus will become endemic — meaning that it will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population for years to come. And although we will be able to manage it through modern medicine and vaccines, as we do with other endemics like influenza, it won’t just disappear.
A combination of acquired immunity and annual vaccines hopefully means we can tolerate the virus without seeing the levels of death, severe illness, lockdowns and social distancing that have been such a dramatic feature of Covid-19 in this country and across the world for well over a year.
We hope our successful mass vaccination programme will help us all get back to some kind of ‘normal’ where we can mix freely with friends and family and enjoy all the freedom of life and travel that we took for granted pre-early 2020.
While we know that no Covid-19 vaccine is 100% effective, it is still the absolute best way to protect yourself and those around you, so I still urge people to get vaccinated and get two doses.
Our Covid recovery in Doncaster is not just about successful vaccination or treatment for the symptoms of Long Covid – its legacy will also inevitably change the way we all access health and social care services in the future.
In common with the rest of the country, Doncaster’s health services had to rapidly adapt to the unfolding Coronavirus crisis. GP surgeries didn’t close their doors but we had to change the way we welcomed people in – with mask-wearing, social distancing and through more telephone and online video consultations.
Much debate is ongoing as to how patients should access their doctors effectively and efficiently in the future. Many are considering a blended approach combining face-to-face consultations, online/video meetings and consultations or appointments by telephone. There are also plans nationally to make use of other digital innovations in the future such as monitoring devices for patients to wear.
Despite these advances and changes which many GPs will embrace, we are mindful that there are people, including the elderly, learning disabled and those with language barriers, who won’t be able to access online or digital systems.
For these reasons please be assured we will never close the door to our GP surgeries. Reinstating routine and essential health services for everyone is a top priority but we still have to juggle the demands of another round of Covid vaccination boosters for the over 50s this autumn and the winter flu jab programme, so while you can and will be able to opt for face-to-face appointments, the increased use of virtual consultations for other health matters will help us enormously.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has put extra pressure on hospital services with a backlog of patients waiting for planned surgery, and mental health services in Doncaster have seen a large increase in demand.
While more funding and extra support is being made available to help us all catch up, we will continue to urge people to use services other than GPs or the hospital’s Accident and Emergency department where they can. Pharmacies for example offer a huge range of information, advice and medication for many ailments.
The health community in Doncaster is working together to explore and provide different ways to help us see patients quicker. You might be offered an appointment or specialist care elsewhere other than the hospital or be given an appointment in the evening or at a weekend.
We do understand people’s frustrations when they think they can’t get instant access to their GPs or their operations have been postponed, but we are working hard together to support everyone in the best and most practical ways possible as we move towards a ‘new normal’ and learn to live with the continuing legacy of Covid.
Thank you all for your continued patience and understanding.