Dr Charles Esene, General Practitioner and Clinical Lead for Luton Town Centre Practice, recalls the massive change in primary care working when the pandemic first arrived on the scene a year ago.
“Government guidelines on seeing patients as well as working in surgeries changed almost daily. Transitioning from face-to-face to virtual clinical consultations was something both doctors and patients had to get accustomed to. It has been difficult for us to implement as well as for the patients to accept since they have been used to being seen by their doctors. The proverbial “healing hands of the doctors”, is now missing in online consultations. However, patients are beginning to understand the benefits of virtual consultations where having a conversation with a doctor about something that does not need face-to-face assessment, but where clinical input is helpful. These conversations can take place over the phone rather than in-person visits and can be quite convenient for the patient,” recalls Dr Esene.
As a GP or as a clinician in general – A very important part of the diagnosis is the medical history, which informs the right treatment. As this is still accessible via remote consultation, there has been little if no negative impact on diagnosis or treatment. HUC has been proactive in its approach and swiftly got people working from home – clinicians were offered laptops, and so were the admin staff – unlike other surgeries where receptionists and administrators were unable work from home. “Where colleagues and patients had to be in, physical separators were provided to prevent them from too much contact with each other,” he adds.
COVID has also increased the pressure on healthcare workers which can affect their mental health. “HUC as an organisation has put in tremendous efforts to get its staff to work safely. That’s been a very responsible part our company has played and we are all here for each other,” says Dr Charles who joined HUC as a GP in 2014.
Talking about his early days at HUC, Dr Charles says, “Initially, I would just come and do my work and go home – that’s the contract. Then one day, I got an email from HUC saying thank you for my hard work. Some of the healthcare colleagues – I mean the call handlers, the shift managers – have always said how helpful I was while I was on the shift. And they wanted to say thank you to me as an organisation and I found that really touching that they actually took notice that I was actually doing a lot more than just my work and supporting the other people I work with as well. I thought that was quite good, and so when the opportunity to become a clinical lead with HUC came up I decided to go for it because I felt it was an organisation that would reward hard work.”
“HUC is an organisation that is moving fast and in innovative ways in the right direction with the right leadership. I now work here full time and never regretted it. It’s been a supportive organisation,” he adds.
Dr Charles Esene’s commitment to our communities doesn’t stop there. Through Afro GP Herts and Beds, an educational forum established in 2018 for GPs of African descent living or working in Hertfordshire, he worked with the community locally delivering food parcels to care home staff and monetary help to the needy in April last year.
“As General Practitioners, we work directly with the care homes, and have seen the impact the virus had on nursing and residential homes. We recognise them as frontline fighters in the battle against this pandemic as their service is equally important,” says Charles, who along with his team visited 14 care homes in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire to get the carers some essential items last year. “We also decided to support people who have been affected by COVID – people who didn’t have a job, who were using the food bank, or at a homeless shelter,” he says.
Now, the focus is primarily on vaccine awareness, something for which he was recently congratulated by Health Secretary Matt Hancock who highlighted his approach as exemplary. “If you’re Black, you’re four times more likely to die from COVID than if you’re white, while for the Asian community is about 2.7 times more likely. The common thought is with the availability of the vaccine, these communities will be the first in line to get it. But at the moment, there is a hesitancy in the community,” he explains. “I have been encouraging people to come out for the vaccine so that the health inequalities that exist do not get worse and the black and ethnic minority community do not become a hot spot for COVID,” he says.
On behalf of everyone at HUC, we would like to thank Dr Esene for his outstanding work in keeping our patients safe and for his passion and dedication to our communities both at HUC and elsewhere.