As we gear up for a nationwide clap for the NHS, on Sunday July 5, Caterham Valley is taking to social media to applaud our town’s own carers.
From the doctors and opticians to dentists, pharmacists and care home services, these people have worked tirelessly throughout lockdown to support the Caterham Valley community.
While routine appointments had to cease at the beginning of the crisis, our Caterham carers have been there for emergencies, such as tooth pain, eye problems and the overwhelming demand for prescriptions.
And they have had to adapt quickly so they can offer that care responsibly and within government guidelines.
A caring community
For example, Rawlings Opticians, which has been in Caterham Valley for 80 years, offered telephone consultations, while keeping its shop opening solely to provide services such as emergency spectacle repair.
The Active Care Group, which has three residential and supported living homes in the Caterham area for adults and children with complex needs, embraced digital technology.
It continued to operate throughout lockdown, with additional safety measures put in place, and used virtual communication to enable people to stay in touch with their friends and families. Its dedicated team also implemented online exercises and drama sessions.
“Our staff have made an outstanding contribution to ensure that the people living in our services have remained safe, well and a part of their community during these unprecedented times,” says Sharon Chrystal, operations director, Active Care Group Residential Division.
Rising to the challenge
At Caterham Valley Medical Practice, clinics were run through telephone or video consultations with only around seven percent of patients needing face-to-face appointments with a GP. Care home visits have been carried out successfully using video to assess all residents, with visits only being undertaken wearing full PPE if clinically essential. The practice also developed an interactive website to allow anyone with internet access to easily ask for an appointment, prescription or advice for any reason.
While technology has proved a godsend during these unprecedent times, Caterham people have risen to the challenge and offered their support to enable our carers to do their jobs.
When Vitaltone Pharmacy saw its deliveries of prescriptions rise from an average of 15 to around 65 a day, local people and businesses stepped in to help.
“A massive thank you must go out to our amazing drivers, David and Derek, without whom we would have found this situation a huge struggle to cope with,” says Shim Patel, owner. “During this unprecedented and difficult time, it was lovely seeing the community come together, with many people giving up their own time to help us with deliveries.”
At the beginning of the crisis, an army of residents sewed surgical scrubs for the Caterham Valley Medical Practice, and Caterham School’s DT department produced 200 visors, while its science department provide protective goggles. As Easter came and went, the town’s Morrisons supermarket dropped off chocolate eggs for the practice staff to boost morale.
“Our community support has been simply breath-taking,” says Dr Richard Wright, Principal GP & Trainer, Caterham Valley Medical Practice who is also the Clinical Director for the North Tandridge Primary Care Network. “It is truly humbling to see how this dreadful event has brought our community together like never before, which is a hugely positive thing.”
This sentiment was echoed by Dr Siamak Yourdshahyan, Principle Dentist and Specialist Orthodontist, at Caterham Dental Centre which, throughout lockdown, offered triage dental care, giving advice via the telephone or through Whatsapp, and only handling emergency cases. “Even when patients have been in pain they have been really understanding of how difficult it also is for us and very supportive,” he says.
Moving to a “new normal”
As lockdown restrictions ease, our community carers are having to adapt yet again to meet government guidelines so they can offer more of their routine services to the people of Caterham Valley.
And while it is early days, one way of thanking our caring services for all their hard work is for the community to continue to follow government guidance.
“The people in our services love living in the Caterham area and if we all adhere to the government guidelines, local services will open sooner and our community can return to the thriving area that it once was,” adds Sharon Chrystal of the Active Care Group.
As the team at Rawlings puts it: “Keep calm, Caterham and carry on following good habits!”.