Dr Unwin Shares Covid-19 Experience and His View on the Future of GP Services

Dr Philip Unwin from the Hart Surgery gave an insight into how the surgery has adapted to meet the challenges they have faced during the coronavirus pandemic.  The talk was hosted the Rotary Club of Henley on Tuesday evening and it was the second in their ‘Speaker Series – Lock down Webinars’ which was open to everyone.

Dr Unwin talked about how the surgery had been affected by Covid-19, what he thought would happen going forward, testing, PPE and a vaccine.  He also talked about what was happening in Kamuli Mission Hospital in rural Uganda which he set up 15 years ago and the local Autism Support Club with have both received kind donations from Henley Rotary Club.

Before the lockdown, Dr Unwin commented, “I felt we were on the verge of a wave of some very sick patients with a pneumonia type illness.  We were asked by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) to prepare ourselves and to set up the triage phone system we’re now operating and we set up a special area in the surgery to see Covid-19 patients which we’ve hardly used.  A long way before we were also asked to help set up a Covid-19 Hub in Townlands but there just wasn’t the numbers to warrant this facility.  An awful lot of money was spent on this.”

In Henley there have been 13 deaths from Covid-19, 11 in care homes and 10 of the 13 were 80+ years.

The surgery is offering face-to-face via Facetime and a video portal.  Dr Unwin explained, “Does it work?  Yes it does suffice but there’s no substitute for a doctor to look the patient in the eye to see what they are hearing is really what they are hearing and seeing.  I think it is not going to change for a while.  We’ll be guided by NHS England to instruct us.”

The big difference that Dr Unwin has seen during the pandemic has been that doctors have more time to do clinical work as the government bodies have relaxed the administration and bureaucracy that they normally need to complete.  Added to this there have been less patients wanting to be referred to hospitals.  Dr Unwin commented, “We’ve had 50% more time clinically which is quite significant.  Going forward I think we’ll be using technology more.”

Talking about Care Homes, Dr Unwin said, “My view is that they’ve been very badly looked after by the government.  They didn’t have PPE or training to deal with very sick patients.  The testing was too slow in coming for them.  We tried to support them as best as we could.  They had been forgotten until recently.”

Thanks to the a local bio pharma company, the Hart Surgery were provided testing for their staff right from the start of the crisis.

“A vaccine is absolutely the way to find a solution” said Dr Unwin.  “It will take a while but it will be worth waiting for a really good vaccine.  It won’t be soon, as vaccines don’t come quickly.  All the staff have signed up to a trial in Oxford which we’re committed to do 12 visits a year.”

Asked whether a second wave would come?  Dr Unwin replied, “Yes likely to occur as the restrictions are lifted.”

How do we compare to other parts of the country?  Dr Unwin replied, “I think very low because I think our residents took the lockdown seriously and obeyed the rules.”

Looking to the future, Dr Unwin hopes that “all practices will be like little hospitals.  We will be able to do more investigation here instead of sending people to the Royal Berks, spending the a day trying to find a car parking space!  More testing and scanning here to be able to come to a better and quicker diagnosis.”

Going on to talk about the Kamuli hopsital, Dr Unwin said, “I contacted the Medical Superintendent there and he told me there was only 500 cases in the country and no deaths.  The Government imposed a strict curfew from 7pm to 6.30am.   Ladies who went into labour were frightened to go to hospital and break the curfew.  Over there I think it will get worse over the next 2 weeks and they’ve only got 55 intensive care beds in the whole country.”

The Henley Autism Support group meets once a month normally on Thursday of every month between 1-3pm at King’s Arm Barn.  Dr Unwin thanked the club for their kind donation to get this group started.  He commented, “We encourage families who have children or adults who have autism to join this club.  It’s very lonely for people with autism.  There was very little support in our area – most of it is available in Oxford.”

We are very lucky to have such great doctors surgeries in Henley and we’re sure that all our readers would like to thank them for the brilliant they way they have adapted in these strange and uncertain times.

If you would like to become a member of the Henley Rotary Club, please contact Phil Fletcher on phil.fletcher@henleyrotary.club