It's been a year like no other! 

Torbay Weekly

As I write, I reflect that I feel like I have come out of the Covid tunnel and am looking around at springtime which has come as a surprise! I am glad to find myself here, hopeful.

A year ago, as a doctor for some 30 years, I remember starting my first ward round during the pandemic and I was more nervous than I could ever recall.

I was trying to learn everything I could about the virus but how would I work with people who had this new infection that I knew so little about.

By the end of the ward round I had been reminded about being human and that fundamentally all that I knew as doctor applied to working with Covid.

The new part of the relationship was the fact that we were learning together about what the Covid disease meant.

A year on, I remember those people and the staff I worked with and how we have all changed in that time.

So many brilliant things have happened during a time that has been so difficult and volatile.

The hospital and our community services have been reorganised multiple times as we changed to respond to differing needs and our learning from the first wave.

Every part of the hospital and our community health and care services have been affected by the pandemic and the commitment of every member of staff has been fantastic.

There are areas like our wonderful intensive care unit (ICU) team at Torbay Hospital who have not just cared for local people but have also cared for people from around the country when needed and treated them so well.

This is one example of the marvellous teams we have working in our local health and care teams.

Our nursing staff - qualified and unqualified - have been so kind on all our wards.

I remember the occasion of a teddy bear being tracked down by a nurse to comfort a dying man and a patient with a learning disability who was so worried that Father Christmas wouldn’t know where he was when he was in hospital and the nurses arranged for Santa, who was visiting the children’s ward, to pop in to reassure him.

These are just a couple of examples that capture just how staff care so much.

This Covid winter has been so hard at work and at home.

It was harder as more people locally affected but easier in that we increasingly have better treatments – British researchers have led the world here.

Partnership working has made such a huge difference. Working locally with Torbay Council and Torbay public health has been remarkable through the last year. I am so impressed with what we can achieve together- we got into better track and trace early on for example.

We have had the Nightingale Hospital in Exeter which has been a fantastic local resource for Devon which really helped us care for the large number of people who needed hospital care.

Locally, we used all our resources to maximise the care we could provide with both Totnes and Brixham community hospitals being amazing.

Our community hospitals all have a strong commitment to local people and I know how hard they worked to look after people - they do a remarkable job every day.

To sum up it has been an unprecedented year to use an overused word and our response in the local NHS trust has meant we have been able to provide compassionate, high quality care for everybody who has needed it.

I worry about the more planned care which has not been able to receive the same attention such as joint replacements, attending to mental health issues. But this is something we are now tackling.

We have learnt so much from the last year and the NHS vaccination programme is the gamechanger with 90 per cent of staff vaccinated we are feeling safer and hopeful for the future.