Last night, slumped on the sofa after a busy day at work, my boyfriend and I heard something outside. We stepped on to our balcony and were hit by a cacophony of noise. Clapping, whooping, banging pots and pans, the sound reverberating off the surrounding buildings. Somehow, I was the only one in my local community to have missed the memo about last night’s clap for carers, a nationwide tribute to the NHS and care workers in these extraordinary times. And, before I knew it, I found that I was crying.
As a junior doctor, I work in an NHS hospital with some inpatients who have been admitted with complications resulting from Covid-19. I have not yet been redeployed to an intensive-care unit, but I feel sure this is on its way. So the clap for carers was followed for me by an outpouring of love from friends and family, some of whom I haven’t spoken to in years, via phone calls and social media.
My Instagram feed was ablaze with similar stories from across the country. Yet that stirring national event wasn’t the only act of support and kindness I’d received that day. At work, the wards are dotted with letters from local schoolchildren telling us to keep going. Cafes near the hospital offer discounted coffees to NHS workers. A local pizzeria is providing free pizzas. A friend of my cousin’s brought in a big box of snacks and toiletries. It all means the world to us.
I hope this experience has helped people to see how important the NHS is to each and every one of us. We all have a connection to our local NHS trust. It’s where most of us were born, and where some of us will die. For some of us, too, there are family connections. I happen to be employed in the same hospital where my grandparents worked as doctors during the blitz. My parents also met here at medical school. I was born in this hospital’s maternity ward, as was my niece. So for me, work also feels like home – and right now I couldn’t be prouder to feel part of it.Advertisement
There is no doubt that your local NHS trust will be experiencing an unimaginable strain on services at the moment. Staff across the country are being redeployed and wards being repurposed, sometimes overnight. We all know that more people are being admitted to hospital with complications from Covid-19 every day. I’m currently receiving training on how to best treat these patients.
Meanwhile, I continue to tend to patients in my day-to-day area of speciality. I know that sometime soon I will be re-deployed: until then, I’ll keep up to date with new guidelines so that I’m as prepared as possible when the time comes.
In short, we are doing everything we can at work to keep you all safe at home. What can you all do in return? If you live next door to a healthcare worker, send them a text to ask if they have everything they need. Don’t expect a reply. But know that it means the world. More than anything right now, shows of compassion and support hold special weight.
Volunteer for the NHS, if you are healthy and able. The government’s call for volunteers was met with over half a million respondents in a matter of days, which in itself sends out a great message of encouragement to all those dedicating their time to tackling coronavirus. There will be plenty more opportunities to get involved as things develop.
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Do not, under any circumstance, feel tempted to stockpile. Buy enough for you and your household, and not a tin more. Take my word for it, there is nothing more miserable than finishing a busy shift and finding your local supermarket has empty shelves. One evening, I had to rely on the kindness of my sister donating me some fresh fruit and veg to make a meal.
But aside from that, let’s clap every Thursday at 8pm from inside our homes for the NHS and care workers.
Most importantly, we should heed the official advice: stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.
• Madeleine Openshaw is a junior doctor working in a city hospital