Dr Andy Devlin is Clinical Director for Sunderland East Primary Care Network. Practising at Villette Surgery in Suffolk Street, Hendon, he is also a GP Trainer.

Here, he describes how his working day has changed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and what new ways of working he and his colleagues have had to adopt:

Following the impact Coronavirus has had, it’s fair to say a lot has changed. Even before I get to work I have had to make changes in order to ensure I’m doing my part to do as much as we can.

I get up at 6.30am and the first change is dressing in scrubs. All clinicians in my practice do this to reduce our chance of spreading the virus. I creep around the house quietly as my family are in bed socially distancing, whereas normally they’d all be up. After I arrive at work around 7.30am I check in with our practice manager to make sure all our staff are OK and if there’s anything new we have to adapt to.

I switch on my computer at around 7.45am and check bloods results, letters, emails and requests from patients. Because of how we work now there are more emails and requests but a lot less of our face-to-face work as we adapt to new ways of engaging with patients through telephone and video consultations where we can.

I then start telephoning patients, which we do to ensure we see the right patient at the right time and with the right investigations. This is also to ensure that we are adhering to social distancing guidance whilst maintaining safe patient care. Video consultations have also been useful so we can inspect rashes, wounds and the general condition of patients.

After I do this, it’s mid-morning and I check in with our pharmacists. I’m a Network Director for the East of Sunderland and our pharmacists have an important role in changing our ways of working to deal with the Coronavirus challenge. At the moment they are dealing with discharge medications from Sunderland Royal Hospital and transferring patients to repeat dispensing, so we can make the best of social distancing. They are also leading a project to bring drugs managed in hospital into the practices in Sunderland to reduce the pressure on the hospital.

If I have arranged to see patients in the morning or previous afternoon they arrive at the practice . I answer the door with my personal protective equipment (PPE) on and see the patient. We have two rooms for this, one for all patients who are socially distancing and another for those who are shielding so as to reduce the risk for this higher risk group of patients.

If we have a patient who is unwell and has symptoms of COVID-19, we arrange review at our Houghton patient assessment centre or in some cases a home visit from our nursing colleagues in the recovery at home team.

Next I sign prescriptions. These are all electronic and sent directly to a pharmacist. We don’t use paper prescriptions anymore to reduce contact.

I check in with my GP registrar, who is training to be a GP under my supervision.  His training with us has not been easy as there have been so many changes and we have had to adapt quite significantly to the situation.

Each day I have a video meeting with GPs, practice managers and managers from our network. This is how we ensure we have the right staff at each practice and proactively adapt to any new guidance coming through from NHS England.

The afternoon starts like the morning, with phone calls, which may lead to some face-to-face appointments. I also do a second check in with our pharmacists and my registrar.

Overall, we have less face to face patient contact at present, but we are still providing important services for patients who need advice and assessment. We have additional tasks to perform such as identifying patients for shielding and ensuring the GP Alliance is aware of these patients so they can be offered support. It is a challenging time for GPs as we adapt to this new normal, but working together across the All Together Better alliance is key to ensuring that we continue to provide safe and effective services for local people and protect those most vulnerable in our communities.

I leave work at 6pm, shower and ensure my scrubs are washed. Then I get to spend some time with my family at home.