Dr G – Team working experience
Dr G is a community-based trainee Psychiatrist. His practice has been fundamentally altered by the pandemic.
He has stopped home visits, which previously made up 90% of his work, and face-to-face clinics. He only saw a ‘handful’ of patients between March and August.
His practice has seen changes, some for the better and some a compromise. But there’s one particular area that has been enhanced by the pandemic – communication with colleagues and teamworking. He believes this had a direct impact on patient care.
During the first peak of the pandemic, the video and phone calls he had with consultants for clinical patient discussions were more regular, detailed and effective than catching up in a corridor as before. He said, ‘I capture more. We're conscious that we all try and stay in touch a bit more.’
Working primarily in the community meant that, in the past, team members were all over the place geographically. This meant that meetings with the wider team were difficult to achieve. Now, with homeworking and use of video conference calls, meetings are virtual and there’s better attendance. Dr G described, ‘it's given people more flexibility to attend, rather than having to be in a certain location at a certain time.’
As a result, he’s seen his team members more, not less. He said, ‘I've actually got to know the community team, bizarrely, more during COVID than I did in the first six months, which is really odd. You wouldn't think that that would be the case, but because we've been on more calls together, whereas previously, people might not have come to certain meetings. And you wouldn't have crossed over because everyone's getting dragged in different directions.’
Previously there had been a bit of a barrier between the medics and the community team as they were physically in different places and this has ‘disappeared a bit.’
He believes this had a direct impact on patient care. He explained, ‘when you know people, it's very easy just to go, "Oh, can I just discuss this person with you? Can we have a chat about what the options might be?" Rather than specifically sending a referral and saying, "Please can you do this?" You can have a bit more of an open discussion about whether it's appropriate or not. I think that certainly helps the patient in being able to access what's going to best meet their needs.’
Dr G also found virtual teaching a positive experience, both for reducing travelling time – saving 4 hours every Tuesday – and keeping in touch with his professional network.
He said, ‘It's much easier to catch up with people, because you don't have to drive somewhere to catch up.
‘Having that time when you meet face-to-face is quite important for networking and maintaining professional relationships with others, especially because we're such a small specialty, and helping reduce that feeling of isolation.’
The pandemic has enabled Dr G to switch to homeworking, which has been a massive bonus in terms of his wellbeing. It’s also freed up time for him to do research and time consuming in-depth medication reviews.
Going forward, he’d like video consultations to replace in-person home visits. This would be more efficient and convenient for doctors and less disruptive for patients. He tends to make two home visits a year to his patients, he recommends that one of these could be done by video.
With the extra time saved, Dr G would like to see more patients and be able to spend more time with existing ones – avoiding cutting corners and rushing things.
‘It's everywhere in the NHS, you have to cut corners at times to do things as best [as] possible without causing any problems, but there might be other things you might want to look into in a bit more detail if you had that time.’