I wanted to begin by discussing my recent practice FB post. I called it >very frustrating situation<. That was the best I could think at the time.
What is or has been frustrating?
Well, I won’t go on too much about Covid (lie).
The vaccine has been rolling out over the past month.
And, in a spirit of openness I will let you know I have had one of the jabs* – the mRNA. (I struggle to remember the company names, which, when you say the ‘Astra-Zeneca…’ is really very good advertising).
The frustration is that lots of people don’t know when it will be their turn.
I guess this state of frustration is better than the hopelessness of many in the developing world (notably, most of Africa) as, the best they can wish for is a mild form of the disease that conveys some form of immunity.
When I received my vaccine, I was aware as to how incredibly lucky I was – I thought, of the over eight billion humans on the planet, I was one of the tiny percent benefiting from this component of modern medicine.
And yes, most people in the UK have not yet had the vaccine.
In Rotherham, every healthcare worker who wants the vaccine has had it already. This is an incredible achievement. It is not representative of the country.
Both my brothers have had the vaccine. They are older than me and I am grateful that they have ticked whatever boxes required. My sister who is also older although not as old as my brothers has not. She is a schoolteacher and again, yes, this is a frustration as to why teachers are not being prioritised; I can wear facemask and visor and keep my patients at a distance when necessary – you can’t do the same with little children who we know (and have known since the early days of the pandemic) are one of the most important vectors of infection.
The frustration I described in my FB post related to my feelings for our patients.
All of the patients in our local care home have been vaccinated, as have the staff. Again, this is ahead of many areas of the UK, which is brilliant.
Those who are over 70, or 80 (I’ve lost track) who can get to the vaccine centre have been getting their jabs too.
People who are unable to leave their houses are a more difficult group and, as I type, teams of vaccinating nurses are working street by street, a doing-good militia, knocking on doors or negotiating key safes in order to jab.
It takes a few minutes to jab; if someone is alone in their home you have to remain with the patient in case they have a reaction. This slows the process – let alone, the palaver of taking off cardigans, jumpers and shirts that are often layered in the under-heated homes of older people.
Not everyone can have a jab at once (it is being rolled-out geographically with a finite number of vaccinators) and there are staff working feverishly behind the scenes phoning-up patients, letting them know someone will visit and on which day.
Jenner would be delighted.
Yet, if you are my sister, or perhaps in one of the ‘at risk groups’ – which range all the way from those who can’t or have not stepped over their front doors since last March (are you taking Vitamin D supplements?) through to folk like me who aren’t very fit and have asthma and are really not sure in our middle-age what effect Covid might have, you are in limbo.
At the core of being human, or at least holding-on to a degree of sanity is the concept of ‘locus of control’ – the notion that we can influence the world around us.
I can scratch if itchy, get out of bed, eat, drink, laugh when I want; all these infinite complexities of being alive contribute to my sense of self and wellbeing.
Take something away and I will struggle.
Take everything away and I will be in free-fall.
Essentially, there is no control over when those many millions who should have the jab will get it – it is too big and complex a task understanding the ins and outs of when and where.
And this is the FB post.
Patients have been going online to establish when they can get their jab.
Here is what happens:
In frustration they are calling the surgery.
We don’t have any answers, and, I guess, some patients think we should.
Reception staff who field the calls are under pressure to answer the phone; patients are calling with queries that cannot be answered.
It is I believe a reasonable truism, if you work in the NHS, or, let’s say, health and social care, you do so because you want to, or you enjoy helping people.
Saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t help,’ goes against the grain.
If there are even just five or 10 per cent more calls to the surgery this makes phone lines even more difficult to answer or have answered.
This is frustrating to patients who want to talk about their pain or asthma or diabetes.
In Yiddish this is called a ‘mishegas’ which translates into ‘a crazy, mixed-up state’ or in Hebrew, ‘balagan’** which is ‘bring to the garden’ – a more obscure sense of chaos.
Maybe that would have been a more appropriate title.
My post likely changed behaviour very little.
We have re-recorded the message you hear when you ring the surgery.
Heck, even when you get the vaccine the world doesn’t change (and this, setting aside the UK gamble, contradicted by evidence from Israel, that one jab for many is better than two for few) – personally I hope it confers me some protection, yet I am still double-masking and gowning and staying close to home.
It won’t do me or anyone any good if I say either ‘trust the system’ or ‘be patient’ – both seem overused tropes that don’t seem to get you anywhere.
Maybe better to reflect on the situation in one of those African states all of which will have people just like you and me who are either old, living with heart disease or asthma, worrying or worried-about, where, compared to our four million vaccinated population only the president has been jabbed.
*A Scotsman has lived in England too long when he thinks of jabs more naturally than jags.
**I stand corrected by my big double-vaccined brother… https://balagan.info/what-is-balagan (this is what I get for over-egging his oldness 😄)