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Covid-19: One year on

23 Mar 2021 | James Russell | COVID-19

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One year on from the start of the first Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, BVA President James Russell reflects on #TeamVet's role in the pandemic and looks ahead to the route out of lockdown.

Covid-19: One year on Image

One year on. One year since we first heard the prime minister telling us to stay home, save the NHS. The effort and work that has gone in from so many in our profession in the time since then is worthy of reflection.

I wonder how many of us back then would have thought that a year later, we would still be feeling the daily impact of this virus which has cost many of us so much: emotionally, socially, physically and financially. Many of us will have friends, colleagues or relatives who have died with Covid in the past year and this anniversary will no doubt be a reminder of that loss.

As a country, and as a profession, we’ve been through some of our hardest times, but it’s heartening that the news continues to improve. As I write this, over 27.5m people in the UK have had their first vaccine dose, with the most vulnerable 3% having had both doses already. Deaths are well down into double figures, and cases are down to double figures per 100,000 of the population. There have been over 1.25m of us tested for coronavirus each day in the last week. These are all promising changes, and leave us more able to look ahead to ‘what’s next?’

As a society, and particularly as a profession, many of us have been working at unusually high levels, often without the balance of the rest and relaxation that lockdown and the restrictions on our social and family relationships have caused.

My question to myself and the whole team at BVA now is to consider what our role is in supporting people through the route out of lockdown. The reality is there is no right or prescribed way to do that.

Within teams, just as within society, there will be a range from those counting down the minutes until social freedoms, to those feeling increasing anxiety at the relaxation of various social measures. A good team, and a good society, will manage to accommodate the whole spectrum of these views and support them all. We will do this by listening carefully to each other, and by listening to understand, rather than listening to persuade.

I have been invited to take part in a virtual event fundraising for Vetlife on 31 March. The event is Mastermind. (The irony being that my general knowledge is not brilliant, and thanks to my dyslexic mind I am likely to forget many of the facts I do know when put under time pressure to respond.) My specialist subject is Blackadder and, s I write this today, I am put in mind of a scene in Blackadder Goes Forth. This is set in the trenches of World War I. The General is about to send the troops into battle and the comment is made that they should all know that he, the general, is behind them. ‘Yes,’ quips Blackadder, ‘about 35 miles behind us’.

One of the great benefits of working this year as BVA president is that I am able to work at home, and I do not have clients waiting outside for me to see them. I recognise entirely therefore that there is a risk that anything I might say could feel as tone deaf as General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett. I do not pretend to understand how it is to be working in lots of PPE day after day. I have no experience of the dance of the car park tango. But what I think I do understand from the time I have spent listening to members of our professions across the country is a pride in what has collectively been achieved. A recognition also that this has come at some cost, and questions about how to move forward.

Like any significant decision, this will be best achieved if it has the buy in of the whole team. I understand the challenge of consultation with teams from a manager perspective and the need to set an expectation that consultation can’t always mean implementation of the ideas raised. I’d like to suggest that as we tackle the preconceptions, emotions and facts of moving into a second year of Covid affected work, this might be the perfect time to pick up the BVA good workplace guide. I reckon that aspects of each chapter could be relevant in forming your workplace’s route through 2021.

It would also be remiss of me not to highlight that there will be those amongst us who have felt increased anxiety or stress in the past months. To all of you, I would want to remind you of presence of the team of Vetlife volunteers, as well as Vet Support NI and Vet Support Scotland. These services exist for you 24/7. I can promise you that those volunteers want to hear from you whatever you’re struggling with, whether it’s decompressing after a bad day, or just needing someone to talk to. Please do keep the number 0303 040 2551 to hand, and contact Vetlife for any resources to display in your practice to support your teams.

#TeamVet. You are amazing. Thank you for all that you do and will do. Please be kind, please take care of yourself and others.

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