A Challenging Year

After a very challenging year for Sixways Clinic as senior partner I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for the hard work from our staff and the support from our patients and community in Charlton Kings and the surrounding areas which have allowed us to continue to safely deliver primary care services and to play our part in the hugely successful Cheltenham Covid vaccination programme.

Our staff have gone above and beyond for over a year to deliver the best service possible in line with the national infection control guidelines set out by NHS England. Social distancing, shielding and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have allowed us to keep both patients and staff as safe as possible in the face of an ever changing virus that has caused a huge amount of loss and suffering.

The NHS and Sixways Clinic have never faced a challenge of this magnitude. Despite that, our staff have remained professional and even managed to maintain good humour in a working environment that has been difficult and, at times, has presented a clear and significant risk to their health and increased the risk of transmission of this deadly virus to their loved ones, including frail, elderly relatives.

We mourn the loss of all those who have died from Covid, including front line health care workers.

The Covid vaccination clinic at the Fire Station was set up rapidly as soon as the vaccine became approved and available. This involved a huge amount of work behind the scenes and was a massive logistic and administrative effort. It is a testament to our staff and the community volunteers involved that both Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock mentioned the Cheltenham vaccination clinic in national media briefings, highlighting it as an exemplar of best practice. A huge thank you also to our patients who have taken the time to feedback their positive experiences at the vaccination clinic. This feedback means a huge amount to those volunteering for extra shifts to keep delivering the service at the fastest pace that we can. We remain in a race against time to vaccinate our population.

The vaccination clinic is a great example of all the Cheltenham GP surgeries working together to deliver a common goal. This integration of clinical services has shown us that when we come together, we are more than the sum of our parts. There will be more of this type of work in the future.

We are already preparing for the winter flu vaccination programme and will once again offer a drive through service at St Edwards School. We are extremely grateful to St Edwards for their ongoing support with this. If a Covid booster vaccination is required, we will incorporate this into our planning.

Finally, I would like to thank the community of Charlton Kings and the surrounding areas that make up our practice area. We know that access to the surgery has been challenging at times and that remote consultations do not suit all patients. Contrary to media stories, the clinicians at Sixways Clinic have been seeing patients face to face, where clinically appropriate, continuously since the first day of lockdown last year. We are in the process of returning to a more normal service as restrictions ease, although it is worth noting that some patients now prefer remote consultations for certain issues that they have.

Our challenge now is to deliver the optimum service, incorporating new ways of working and combining the best of the old and the new. Contrary to media stories, the clinicians at Sixways Clinic have been seeing patients face-to-face where clinically appropriate, since the first day of lockdown last year. We know that for some people, access to the surgery and consulting by telephone or video has been difficult. We also have many patients who have found that telephone consultations, being able to send in digital photos for their GP and using e-consult has been more convenient for them. We will continue to work with our Patient Participation Group (PPG) to shape our services in the light of this and as always, we are grateful to our PPG for their invaluable feedback.

The Kent and Indian Covid variants have shown that this virus can rapidly change with little or no warning. When we see the terrible and heart breaking scenes in India and other areas of the World, it brings home how quickly a seemingly controlled situation can rapidly spiral out of control. We must all remain vigilant and not drop our guard in the face of this ongoing threat.

Unfortunately, Covid will be with us for many years to come and so we must learn to live with the threat that it poses and adjust our lives accordingly.

I am humbled and honoured to work with such a great practice team and community.

Dr Graham Mennie
Senior Partner