29 May 2020

Paddy Gunn: Life in lockdown

Join Paddy Gunn MCOptom, Principle Optometrist at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, as he reflects on the challenges faced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It seems like a lifetime ago thinking about the early days of the pandemic. Starting with the odd sign by the eye hospital entrance asking if patients had recently travelled to Wuhan - to a network of pop-up barriers and signage placed to keep patients and staff safe. The commute to work through Manchester is now eerily quiet, with all traffic appearing to head towards the hospital site.

“In the buildup to the lockdown, the rate of change at the hospital was immense, with twice daily update meetings and recommendations on protective wear constantly changing. Clinics were busy and hectic as we tried to agree pragmatic management decisions for patients with a high risk of contracting a COVID related illness, and who we felt were at risk of losing vision as a result of delays to their care. Some decisions seemed heartbreaking, and the days were long and exhausting. When routine outpatient appointments were suspended, it came as a big relief to us all. Finally we had a little breathing space to plan out how we could safely look after our patients who really needed urgent care.

“Initially, I spent some time working on our plans to get our team of optometrists safely working from home, giving respite to those seeing urgent cases. The ability of colleagues to adapt to these new ways of working has been incredible, particularly the efforts dedicated to help ensure our pre-reg optometrists continue to get as much training and education during these difficult times. Whilst I am on standby to see urgent glaucoma and laser cases, we try to ensure our glaucoma fellows and ophthalmology trainees have every opportunity to get some clinical experience on their rotation in glaucoma. This has freed up time to work on other projects, planning for the acute and recovery phases. Recently, this has mainly consisted of working on the Manchester CUES to make sure primary eye care optometrists have the best possible clinical advice and support when providing much needed acute eye care in the community.

“It’s amazing how quickly this new way of working has become the normal. I now work from home two days a week, much to the joy of my dog Ted who makes regular appearances at zoom meetings, and endeavors to distract me from completing research deadlines. The two days at the eye hospital give a much-needed sense of normality. My days in an independent primary care practice are getting busier taking urgent phone calls, and travelling in to see the cases that can’t be resolved over the phone. I think we all feel lucky to be allowed out.

“Throughout these weird and unsettling times, my overwhelming feelings have been of pride for the brilliant team of people I work with, and gratitude for the kindness of others. I think NHS staff feel truly valued and primary care optometrists are being increasingly recognised for their key role in delivering urgent eye care. Whilst the path to normality in eye care is unclear, I think there is some certainty that the role of optometrists will become ever more important in helping make the recovery as quick and effective as possible.”

Paddy Gunn MCOptom is a Principal Optometrist at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.

Related further reading

A glance at what’s happening in the world of technology.

Eye health issues that are making the news.

Jane Veys MCOptom on reducing the tears and fears of our patients