Thursday 28th May 2020 marked the last clap for all our frontline staff, an incredible time of unity. People collectively acknowledged the efforts and strength demonstrated by all the staff who put themselves on the frontline to ensure that we, the general public were looked after and felt safe during the height of the pandemic. 
 
We clapped every Thursday night and spoke of our gratitude and endless thanks to those who were prepared to work through the eye of the storm and risk their own lives to help others. 
 
Then the clapping stopped. 
Time has passed and restrictions are being gently lifted, a degree of normality has ensued, and we are getting used to ‘the new norm’. Online communications are now commonplace and working from home (where possible) is preferable. Behaviourally we are having to change and adapt and create new etiquette; no hugging, no kissing, no large gatherings, and keeping our distance - a concept which is somewhat alien to us as human beings as we are inherently social, and we have a fundamental need to belong. 
 
During a series of online webinars with a group of receptionists and admin staff I was interested to hear them express the increasing pressure that they were now feeling, not only in dealing with the second wave but also the back log of work and the winter flu season. They also spoke with a heavy heart about how patients are more demanding than ever and how it was only a few months ago they were all so grateful for the lengths staff were going to in supporting everyone through this uncertain and frightening time. A receptionist shared “Patients back then seemed more understanding and polite; they had the attitude of we were all in it together.” 
 
So, what has happened? 
 
Fear, uncertainty, and lockdowns, both local and national, have reared their ugly heads and we are all frustrated with the situation we find ourselves in. However, what was reassuring and inspiring whilst listening to these conversations, was that throughout this whole experience, GP Practices demonstrated a strong unity and worked as a team, regardless of role or position. When asked what was working well, their response varied from supporting colleagues through listening and helping when needed, through to bringing in the best chocolate brownies ever! 
A cake, a cup of tea and a ‘well done’ goes a long way in a time when we are up against it. 
 
Moral support has been the key to success and the recognition that despite the everyday demands within a Practice, they are all helping each other and doing the best they can, making a very real difference. 
I listened to shared experiences on dealing with patients which can be challenging in many ways. Stories of helping patients where staff have gone above and beyond, despite on some occasions having been hurled a rampage of verbal abuse from a patient who needs an appointment ‘now!’. 
 
It goes without saying, that with this, I felt reassured by their knowledge, ability, resilience and strength to cope. And so, whilst we may not be out clapping every Thursday showing our appreciation, know that we are in our own way, still clapping and are very grateful for all you do. 
 
Thank you – You are the Heart of Surgery 
 
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