13 May 2020

Jagdeep Singh: Life in lockdown

Join Jagdeep Singh MCOptom, Optometrist at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, as he takes you through his new routine, both inside and outside the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I step out of my home each day with a sense of anxiety and trepidation. Working in an NHS hospital in the current climate poses considerable challenges and risks that are constantly on my mind. 

“As soon as I enter the ophthalmology department I don scrubs, a facemask and a scrub hat. This has become my new uniform over the last few weeks. Patients are asked to wear facemasks too, and have their temperature checked on arrival. The waiting area that would normally be busy with patients and relatives is now virtually empty. Appointments have been spaced out to enforce social distancing, and patients are requested not to bring relatives or friends to appointments unless absolutely necessary. 

“As all routine outpatient activity has been cancelled, the urgent eye and medical retina clinics are the only two clinics in the department with regular activity. I happen to work in both. I carry out intravitreal injections in the mornings, and a mix of medical retina reviews and urgent eye appointments in the afternoons. Many of the patients I see are apprehensive about attending their appointments in the current climate, especially considering the majority are over 70 and have underlying health conditions. I reassure each and every one of them how important it is that they attend, especially those needing regular intravitreal injections. 

“I also work as a Clinical Governance and Performance Lead (CGPL) in Staffordshire for Primary Eyecare Services. Over the last few weeks I have been working with the local LOC and optical practices to launch telemedicine consultations, and the COVID-19 Urgent Eye Service (CUES). It’s been challenging to balance this around my clinical work as a hospital optometrist. Never did I think that these last few weeks would be the busiest of my working career. 

“The locum work I carry out on weekends is now non-existent. Many of my colleagues who work as locums around the country have been significantly affected by this. Despite the current health crisis, there are still optical practices that remain open, providing over the phone triaging and in some cases face-to-face appointments. They are a lifeline to secondary care ophthalmology services.

“As a LOC member for Shropshire I have also been having regular online meetings with the rest of the committee. We speak to practice owners in the region about how the LOC can help support them during these difficult times. The College’s weekly email updates have helped with this, and have kept me well informed about changes and developing stories within the profession.

“I think it’s safe to say that the health service will never be the same again. Optometric practice will change dramatically in the coming weeks and months, affecting the way we deliver and provide care to our patients. At times, adapting to these changes will be difficult and challenging, but we will all look back at how we pulled together to overcome this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.” 

Jagdeep Singh MCOptom is a hospital optometrist at a NHS Trust and a private provider of NHS cataract and medical retina services. 

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