In the year since the first lockdown was imposed in Britain, NHS staff have been on the frontline, day in, day out.
Helen Raine is one of them. The head of nursing at the Haxby Group of GP surgeries, has been reflecting on a hugely challenging 12 months.
“The first UK lockdown from 23 March, was the start of an unimaginable journey for myself as a nurse, a manager, a colleague, a mum and as a person,” she said.
“As a nurse, I often ask myself if we were prepared for the challenges Covid-19 was going to throw at us.
“My answer is – we did our best and that is all we possibly could have done. As time progressed, the more we learnt about the virus, the more we adapted the way we worked.
“I’m proud to say that not once did Haxby Group practice close its doors to patients.”
‘I felt helpless’
Over the year, Helen and her colleagues have gone through “a whole range of emotions”, from worry about taking the infection home to their families, to “just having time to go to the shops to buy everyday groceries and everyday items”.
Her own family was affected. Her eldest daughter, also a nurse, become very unwell with Covid-19.
“I felt helpless… Knowing she was only a short journey away, but not being able to see her was against all my instincts as a parent and was one of the hardest times over the past year.”
Helen was instrumental in setting up the primary care network vaccination service in York – and that was a definite high point.
“Walking into work on the day of the first clinic was emotional and felt monumental knowing as a primary care service, from the administration staff to the health care professional administering the vaccines we were saving people’s lives.
“Patients danced down the corridor to receive their vaccine and staff had tears in their eyes.”
‘Intense, stressful, rewarding’
Haxby Group’s managing partner John McEvoy described the year as “intense and, at times, a little stressful. But it’s been rewarding and fulfilling at the same time.”
He described it as “also a year of community and community spirit”.
“From the start we experienced terrific voluntary community help for the shielded and vulnerable and this carried through to the marvellous army of volunteers who marshal and administer vaccines and continue to deliver medicines.
“Wider than that, the desire from many to be a part of the struggle, to do their bit, has been amazing.”
And he added: “My faith in general practice, in primary care and the people within it, has only been reinforced by the past 12 months.
“It has stepped up to the plate at a time of need and will continue to do so; it is the very definition of a national treasure.”