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How the NHS Coped with Covid-19 (Paperback)

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Medicine & Health Hobbies & Lifestyle > Wellbeing & Self-Care P&S History > British History P&S History > Social History

By Dr Ellen Welch
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 224
Illustrations: Integrated mono
ISBN: 9781399006118
Published: 28th June 2022

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2020 will forever be remembered as the year the coronavirus pandemic changed life as we know it across the world. Economies crashed, livelihoods were eradicated, and thousands of lives were shortened or devastated by the effects of this novel virus. In the UK, the National Health Service was thrust into the limelight as the country watched our healthcare system respond to the consequences of this disease.

This book traces a timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting key events in how the UK and the NHS approached these unparalleled events. Comparisons are made with the experiences of colleagues around the globe and the decisions of our leaders questioned.

Alongside the facts, are stories. Every one of us has a ‘Covid Story’ to tell, and this book is a collection of some of these stories from our frontline staff. As the country went into rapid lockdown in March, the staff of the NHS donned their PPE and continued to go to work. They tell us what peak pandemic was like in the emergency departments, wards, ICUs, GP practices, care homes and the ambulances of the UK. We hear from a nurse who became a covid patient in her own ICU; staff from the rapidly constructed Nightingale hospital; a GP who returned from retirement to assist with the response; as well as stories from international healthcare professionals: a cruise ship nurse in the Caribbean; a public health consultant in Australia and doctors in South Africa and Palestine.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book exploring the NHS response to COVID-19, however it became rapidly apparent that this was not going to be an easy read. The book takes a deceptively simple but effective chronological approach to presenting factually the emergence and spread of the pandemic, deftly interwoven with first-hand narratives of individuals dealing with personal, health and social-care consequences of the virus.

Spanning 2020, narratives, diary entries, drawings and photographs sit alongside monthly global and UK death statistics, key events and strategic decisions to chart how the NHS responded, evoking a complex mix of emotions as many had to mobilise to deal with an unfamiliar and unprecedented (yes, I used that word) pandemic.

In some places, I found some accounts profoundly upsetting and moving, perhaps because they resonated so much with my own personal and professional experiences, but eventually I found I finished the book with some sense of catharsis. The narrative confirmed for me a shared experience with both the midwifery and wider health and social-care community and the author, by using accounts from a vast rage of professions in health and social care expertly, demonstrates the true beating heart of the NHS - its people.

The juxtaposition of these accounts alongside evidence of chronic underfunding, under resourcing, profound health inequalities and the consequences of government decisions serve as stark warnings and a timely reminder why it is critical to maintain an effective, well-resourced and funded healthcare system with functional leadership both locally and nationally. It also illustrated why, as midwives, we should not only look inwards towards our own services but realise how and where we exist in the wider healthcare machine.

Overall, this the book fulfils its aims well, simply presenting the facts, void of judgement, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. Whilst not aimed at midwives specifically, it is definitely worth setting aside an afternoon to reflect on the collective healthcare experiences of COVID-19.

The Practising Midwife, January 2023

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A thought provoking book of which I’m sure there are to be many in the coming years even decades, very descriptive of what the world went through in 2020.

NetGalley, Aisha Bari

Security guards spat at and nurses who became patients: NHS workers share hospital life at the height of the pandemic

Read the full article here.

METRO.co.uk

This book is far more than a polemic. It is hard to imagine in the ever-increasing library of Covid-19 books any title book reflecting so many different perspectives.

It includes dozens of personal stories: The Covid frontline —a paramedic’s experience; A patient in my own ICU; Returning from retirement; Mental healthcare for older adults during the pandemic; Being a new GP partner during the pandemic; Dentistry and Covid-19; The vaccine roll-out (GP perspective); The Australian experience; How Singapore coped with Covid-19; A siege within a siege — Covid-19 in Gaza.

John Illman - Medical Journalists' Association

"Ellen Welch, as a GP, spent the pandemic
working from her home in Cumbria for an
out of hours NHS provider and is still based
in Cumbria as a GP.
This gives her telling of how the NHS coped with
Covid-19 a particularly keen edge. She worked the
pandemic very much on the front line. As one of
Doctors’ Association UK’s editorial team she was
also very well placed to judge how many of her
colleagues in hospitals and practices throughout
the UK were faring. This book therefore taps
an impressively deep well of anecdote, drawn
first hand, from medical and health professional
colleagues, as well as offering a month by month
timeline of the pandemic’s progess from the very
last day of 2019 through the whole of 2020, in
which the key public milestones, statistics and
political decisions are mapped...This book is well worth reading, in bringing the
pandemic into sharp focus with so many first-hand
accounts."

Alan Taman, Doctors for the NHS Newsletter, July 2022

As featured in the article: 'NHS staff have 'left in droves' since COVID'

News and Star (Carlisle)

"It serves as both an important historical chronicle as well as a highly readable account of the population’s pandemic experience over the last two years."

Read the review here

Hektoen International Journal - Dr Arpan K Banerjee

As a nurse, working in COVID vaccination clinics in Australia, I found this a particularly interesting book.

Dr Welch went through the NHS experience, when COVID first started until around 18 months later. She reminded me of how frightening the beginning of the pandemic was, with this unknown virus taking over the world and no vaccines in sight, yet. We had no idea what we were dealing with, and most of us had never dealt with anything of the sort before.

I enjoyed reading accounts of various health professionals who were working at the NHS at the time, and I found the vaccinator's account particularly interesting - it was a LOT like my own experience, even though I am on the other side of the world. I also enjoyed the other viewpoints of this crisis, the security guard had my sympathies, that is one tough job too!!

Anyway, this was a really good book, and I enjoyed it.

4.5 stars from me.

NetGalley, Monica Mac

"The book may be of use to those who wish to keep a log of the events of 2020".

Alison Wall, Local history/ nursing and public health groups

Wow what an interesting inspirational read. Very informative about what was going on during the covid pandemic. 2020 will forever be remembered as the year the Coronavirus pandemic changed life as we know it across the World. Economies crashed, livelihoods were eradicated, and thousands of lives were shortened or devastated by the effects of this novel virus. In the UK, the National Health Service was thrust into the limelight as the country watched our healthcare system respond to the consequences of this disease.
This book traces a timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting key events in how the UK and the NHS approached these unparalleled events. Comparisons are made with tactics used around the globe and the decisions of our leaders questioned. Recommend this book!

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

About Dr Ellen Welch

Dr Ellen Welch is a GP based in Cumbria. She spent the pandemic working from home as a remote GP for an NHS Out of Hours provider, and being a pregnant mum. She has worked in various roles both within the NHS and overseas since qualifying, including a season as a Ski field Medic in New Zealand, an expedition doctor climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and over ten years as a senior ships doctor on cruise ships around the World. Her prior publications have won awards from both the BMA and the MJA.

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