Clinical director explains how COVID -19 has changed his service

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trusts’ clinical director of head and neck services has been reflecting on the ways that COVID-19 has affected how his service is run.

Paul Counter, also an ENT consultant surgeon, said that some changes may actually help towards a more efficient way of working in the future:

“There are some things that have changed clearly with the coronavirus in terms of the way that we are working.

“The main thing is that actually seeing patients is difficult now, you can do it but it takes a lot longer and you have to be aware of the risks to both the patients and the staff. So we have moved to telephone clinics like just about everyone has. And I think there has been a recognition that you can do a lot on a telephone clinic, you can’t do everything clearly, but you can do a lot and my prediction is that you will see a lot more of them in the NHS generally when all this settles down.

“There are also some things that haven’t changed as well that I think are really important to emphasise. Since I started as clinical director for head and neck I’ve tried to keep a team attitude going amongst the service. I think when we were having to make a lot of changes at short notice and rely on common sense and individuals in making decisions that team attitude pays off. If people know they are part of a team and they know how people around them are likely to react, it enables them to make those decisions a lot more effectively.”

Paul also explained how his service has developed a novel way of keeping the team informed as decision and guidance changed so rapidly.

He explained: “I’m not a great fan of emails for communicating with staff they are a great form of record keeping but as a way of communicating with staff they are pretty limiting actually. So we have and 08.30 briefing every morning, where I or one of my colleague let the department know what is going on. It became fairly obvious to us pretty quickly that having group of 20-30 people all in one room was really not very good for social isolation so we started holding it outside on the lawn outside the pillars building and that has worked really well.”

Staff across the NHS have shown incredible support for each other in these difficult and unprecedented times and in Paul’s service this is no different.

“It’s been really good to see how our team has supported each other in whatever way is appropriate. Mostly it’s been in house acknowledging how difficult it has been with each other and having a decent working relationship with each other and a decent team spirit beforehand really helps that.

“There’s been lots of unofficial things as well like people bringing in food for baking – a lot of baking happening! It’s great if you like cakes!

“Also I think a fairly open style of support and leadership that we have trying to say ‘if you need to come and see me, come and see me’ and I think that relaxed style that most of the department works on seems to help with that support because people don’t’ feel like they have to hide it.”


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