A Concierge GP is offering advice on the best ways to cope with the stress of shielding during the coronavirus pandemic – from the perspective of both a doctor and patient.

Dr Hadley Skidmore, who has described the potential arrival of a vaccine for Covid-19 as “wonderful news,” has adapted his working methods to cope with being home-based and is using the opportunity to pass on his own coping mechanisms to patients.

He said the ability to be in the moment and looking for small things to improve wellbeing – such as growing your own fruit and veg – were key weapons in the fight against feeling isolated.

“The important message to get out there is that shielding is about physical isolation, not social isolation,” said Dr Skidmore.

“For example, coping can simply be about encouraging people to catch up via Zoom when they might normally send a text message.

“It’s important to make the most of the little things – look out of the window, walk around your garden. It’s also a good opportunity to take up gardening – I have a vegetable patch with courgettes, tomatoes and broccoli and it’s been great to see the fruits of my labour!”

Video and phone consultations

While he has worked on coping mechanisms to support himself while shielding, Dr Skidmore has also used the experience to adjust how he treats his patients.

He said: “Clinically speaking, there is a lot which can be done over the phone, as around 85 to 90 per cent of diagnosis is based on someone’s presenting symptoms and medical history.

“I am doing a lot of consultations via phone or video. Even on a video call, you can pick up the micro-expressions from people which are so important in a face-to-face consultation with your GP.

“When I tell my patients I am shielding, it helps show a human side. It can sometimes be easy to forget doctors can suffer the same issues as their patients and it really helps show the doctor/patient relationship is a two-way thing.

“It’s also important to emphasise the importance of teamwork, as while I can’t visit patients in person, my colleagues are my eyes and ears on the ground.

“My patients have been very understanding and happy to delay appointments to see me after a few weeks.

“Certain medical conditions can’t wait, so I will always be the patients’ first point of contact for continuity – but if they’re needed, the team at Concierge will help out. It’s one of the advantages of working at supportive practice and not independently.”

Living in the here and now

Looking to the future, Dr Skidmore said it was important to focus on the small things as the world crosses its fingers for the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Speaking both as a GP and someone who is shielding, it is all about living in the here and now. If you’re working, it’s important to get breaks away from your desk. I am a bit of a workaholic and was finding my lunch breaks were getting later and later,” he said.

“And for everyone who is shielding, it’s wonderful news that we have a vaccine on the horizon. I can even think about a holiday in 2021 now!”