The weather over the past few days has been a little dismal, cold and wet. Short days and little sunlight mean we can be forgiven for feeling a little flat at the moment, but having just finished another session at one of Bury’s vaccination centres, I am warmed and heartened by what I have seen, heard and felt.
There is much to cheer about. Like many others have commented, it’s hard to fall asleep after working through a clinic at a vaccination centre. The words and images from the day swirl around in your mind and it takes time to process all of that and settle.
The individuals and teams that have set up these centres in such a short period of time have done an amazing job. Their dedication and perseverance, coping with the challenges of uncertainty, changing guidance and short deadlines are to be applauded.
I was struck today by how all our GP Practices, Pharmacists working within the CCG and our Primary Care Networks and wider Council teams, either as organisations or as individuals, have responded to the ‘call to arms’.
Many of our staff have never worked together, are doing unfamiliar roles and are in new uncharted territory, yet they are all working well together, bonding and supporting each other, focused on providing a vital, safe and caring service to the people of Bury.
Volunteers and paid staff, professionals and lay people, administrators, marshals and clinicians are all focused on vaccinating safely as many people as possible.
Most staff are doing extra shifts and working very long hours, but they are lifted up and energised by the positive response and the fact that ‘they are making a difference’. Local people are being kind and are sharing their gratitude at receiving the vaccination, there is a genuine feeling of Bury coming together to overcome this crisis.
At a recent vaccination clinic, I was watching the centre manager tenderly take the hand of an elderly blind man and guide him to a booth for his vaccine, whilst chatting with him and reassuring him, it brought tears to my eyes. For many of our elderly residents, this has been their first outdoor excursion for many months; they swapped stories and lapped up the company around them whilst waiting a short while after their vaccination, in a safe and secure environment.
My mother was a child during the London Blitz, she told similar stories of how when people emerged from the underground air raid shelters after days of being alone, dark and isolated, the first thing they wanted to do was connect with neighbours and friends. It is hardly surprising that some people may arrive early or come with carers who they trust above all else. It’s human nature to want to connect with the people and communities around us.
It has been wonderful to see how individuals and centres have worked in a kind and flexible way, helping people with humanity and sensitivity, often going beyond what is expected, ‘doing the right thing’. People are so grateful for the service being provided, and personally, I think I gained far more from the people I vaccinated, than the service I provided them.
We will certainly have stories to tell our children and grandchildren about ‘what did we do’ during the 2020 Covid pandemic.
Not only do we need to be kind to our patients and to our colleagues, but we also need to be kind to ourselves. As Lesley Jones, Bury’s Director of Public Health reminded us at the beginning of this difficult time, it is a ‘marathon, not a sprint’. There is now light at the end of what seems a long tunnel, but we all need to ensure we look after ourselves during this ongoing crisis, have adequate rest days, time off and avail ourselves of the healthy living offers provided around us, in our communities and through the workplace.
Thank you to everyone. We are definitely seeing Bury at its best!
Dr. Jeffrey Schryer, local GP and NHS Bury CCG Chair