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23 April 2020
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Covid-19: At the forefront

by Dr Mayur Murali

Anaesthetic registrar and alumnus of the National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow Scheme 2018-19

It seems amazing now that, before the virus permeated every part of our lives, we could enjoy simple pleasures like social gatherings of more than two people, shopping for essentials without social distancing, and a newscast without politicians looking out sombrely from behind a lectern. While I always try to look for the positives, aside from being able to actually find a seat on the Tube on the way to work, it is clear that we have all been affected hugely by the events of the last few weeks – some more than others.

The human toll of this crisis is very much at the forefront of my mind; not only on those admitted to hospital, but also their families, those unable to financially insulate themselves during the crisis, and vulnerable members of society negatively impacted by lockdown.

I recently returned to the UK following a stint working abroad and have been parachuted into some of the most challenging work circumstances I have experienced. Working in an ICU which has been repurposed as a Covid-19 unit, I have become familiar with the rituals of ‘donning and doffing’, performing procedures in PPE several layers thick, and the hazardous process of ‘proning’ (turning) patients to improve their ventilation. And our patients are sick: there is no getting around that many will require long hospital stays, and some may not recover.

Despite the apocalyptic tone, I am one of the lucky few who have been able to go to work and continue to be paid. Indeed, I think it is an immense privilege to be working in the NHS. We are at the forefront of managing a novel disease, learning every day and implementing new ideas and approaches. I am inspired by the hard work and resilience of my colleagues across healthcare disciplines. The public are behind us and it is hugely rewarding to hear their support during the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’. I am also thankful for the sterling efforts of those working behind the scenes, both in healthcare and beyond, to keep the services we take for granted going.

Covid-19 has shown us the importance of strong leadership across scientific, healthcare and political spheres. As the dust settles in the coming weeks, and as the pressure on hospitals is relieved, we have an opportunity to reflect on and learn from our approach to managing this pandemic, at a national and local level. Until then, we must continue to support each other, work hard… and think about how sweet our post-lockdown world will feel.

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