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Blog - Professor Mike Holmes

With the weather forecasters saying it’s going to rain for the next 40 days, it’s also clear that we’re heading into uncertain times in this pandemic as we start to really relax restrictions whilst encountering new variants.

As we moved into vaccinating the next cohort of patients last week, the news of the Indian variant of the virus alerted us to the fact that coronavirus still does pose a threat. So the decision is to bring forward second dose vaccinations and press on with getting as many people vaccinated as we can, as quickly as possible.

In York and North Yorkshire we’re doing really well and have already vaccinated more than 72% of our 40 to 49-year-olds. And nearly 15% of 30 to 39-year-olds have received their first dose of the vaccine. We now have good availability of the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines and this coming week we’ll be delivering the one millionth first dose vaccine in our region.

Sadly, in spite of this incredible work, General Practice has taken the brunt of negative media attention this week and on a personal level this feels disheartening. There is a lack of understanding about the role that General Practice has played during the pandemic and I am not sure where this is originating. Having been at the heart of the response by General Practice during the pandemic – both as the Vice Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and as a partner at Haxby Group in York, Hull and Scarborough I couldn’t have been more proud of my profession. My practice has never closed its doors and we have had more patient encounters than in the period before the pandemic. We have looked after those who were shielding, the most vulnerable in our community in care homes and adapted to new ways of working to ensure the service kept going. Our GP teams have worked on bank holidays and continued to be in our practices throughout the lockdown, accepting the risks that come with that.

Prior to the pandemic the levels of stress and fatigue within primary care were already higher that the national average. I can guarantee they are much higher now.

On top of this General Practice has led the most widespread and successful vaccination campaign in UK history.


So when the headlines suggest we are failing our patients, it hurts and it’s simply inaccurate. As I have said all along the way we will get through this is by working together.

We know our population have healthcare needs, we know there is much work to do. We must support each other and understand each other if we are to recover from this in a timely fashion – if we point fingers and look for scapegoats it will be a recipe for disaster.

General Practice was not perfect before the pandemic – the current headlines are totally demoralising. If we are not careful people will vote with their feet and I don’t mean just clinicians I mean the thousands of dedicated workers who make up the real frontline – our reception and admin teams. They are part of our teams, they never deserve the way they are portrayed by the media – they play a crucial role and deserve respect not abuse.

The staff we work with in General Practice are a true inspiration. The same is true of those at the vaccination site including our volunteers. We are now welcoming students for work experience hoping to attract them into the profession in the future. We are also looking to recruit volunteers so if you are interested do get in touch.

During the pandemic each week we have had to be agile and adapt to change and new demands from the NHS and Government. This week is no different. The JCVI now advises unvaccinated adults aged 30-39 who are not high risk, should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, I want to make it clear that the AZ vaccine CAN be given to them providing they understand the risk/benefits and give their consent. We will have these conversations with each patient to make this clear and give them options.

Finally, please do take time to download the NHSApp this week as this is where you’ll find proof of your Vaccination Status. It’s very easy to do if you have a smart phone and is also very useful for viewing your medical record and ordering repeat prescriptions. Some GP Practices also use it for booking appointments and messaging. There’s a lot of useful information there too to help you care for yourself.

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Professor Mike Holmes

Mike Holmes is a General Practitioner at Haxby Group in Yorkshire and the Vice Chair (Membership) at the Royal College of General Practitioners. 

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