Thursday, 09 July 2020

Henley Rotary Club

VIRTUAL meetings of Henley Rotary Club have been well attended during the past month or two when members have not been able to assemble together physically.

The speaker at last week’s meeting was Dr Philip Unwin, senior partner at the Hart Surgery in Henley

He spoke about how the surgery had been coping during the coronavirus lockdown and the likely impact on the way it works in future.

He revealed that 13 patients at the surgery had died as a result of covid-19, 11 of them in care homes. All but one had been over the age of 80.

Dr Unwin said: “You could sort of argue that a good proportion of those patients you would have expected to die anyway at that stage in their life, which wouldn’t have been an unreasonable assumption.

“So we haven’t had a lot of extra deaths as a result of covid as far as we can tell.”

He said the surgery had not seen as many cases of the disease as it thought it might.

Dr Unwin said patients had been very good at following the Government’s guidelines, at isolating themselves, maintaining social distancing and not attending the surgery if they had covid symptoms.

This had meant the surgery hadn’t been overwhelmed with work.

It had set aside a whole area that was to be used to look after and isolate patients with the disease.

“We hardly ever used it,” said Dr Unwin. “We had a lot of equipment and PPE delivered to us but we hardly ever used that room — it just wasn’t necessary.”

Since then the surgery had adopted a new way of working by triaging patients so they didn’t have to attend the surgery and put themselves at risk.

They can ring up in the morning and will then get a call back from a doctor the same day.

The surgery is making 100 to 150 calls a day, ringing patients back to discuss their problems.

Some of these are done via videolink and about one in 10 of those triaged is seen at the surgery.

Dr Unwin said: “If they are feeling ill and we need a bit more clarity we ask them to come to the surgery. If they can’t do that we go and visit them and we, as a practice, contrary to popular belief, do quite a lot of home visits.”

Dr Unwin said he didn’t think the triaging system would ever be a substitute for “laying a hand on a patient” and trying to diagnose their problem and suggest a treatment.

However, the new way of working meant there was a lot less bureaucracy and administrative work around consultation.

There was more time to do clinical work and a lot less spent on statutory and regulatory work imposed on practices by the Government.

Dr Unwin said: “Fifty per cent of GPs are saying they have much more time clinically to spend with their patients doing this triage service.”

At the lunchtime meeting the previous week, Rotarians listened to new member Brenda Jamison Gaunt give her introductory talk without any notes.

Brenda was born and brought up in a small township in Western Pennsylvania and, after this rural beginning, moved to the city when she took a four-year bachelor’s degree at a university in Pittsburgh, graduating with a degree in behavioural sciences.

She joined a non-governmental organisation in Washington DC, promoting the accessibility in employment for disabled people, among whom were Vietnam War veterans.

Later, she was involved in the National Campaign for Handicapped Children and Youth, working for the educational rights of disabled children.

While she was in Washington, Brenda met her husband Jeremy and they had a son, Joshua. Jeremy’s various career moves (with The Economist and the Reuters news agency) took them abroad and when he was posted to Belgium, Brenda concentrated on bringing up Joshua.

During their subsequent move to Athens, she ran for election to the board of directors of the American Community Schools.

Her work was obviously appreciated since she was later voted in as vice-president. The school has since been recognised as the premier English-speaking school in Athens, partly as a result of curricula and infrastructure changes begun during her tenure.

Brenda’s commitment to her new Rotary membership is obvious as, since she joined the Henley club last year, she has volunteered to host and mentor a Rotary scholar visiting this district to read conflict studies at Oxford.

This fact was alluded to in club secretary Philip Fletcher’s vote of thanks, as was her election to the club council for the Rotary year 2020-2021 as the international committee chairwoman.

David White and John Luker

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