Before the pandemic had truly hit, I felt that COVID-19 created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust amongst the general public and healthcare professionals alike. I had had a longstanding cough, which has lingered on from an old cold, and I faced looks of horror whenever I coughed at work. Consultants and nurses would surreptitiously back away.
I felt I had to justify myself every time I coughed: "Just to clarify, this is an old cough guys. It's not new!" This provoked relieved laughter and, occasionally, a sympathetic response. One afternoon I choked on a piece of apple which triggered an uncontrollable coughing fit; tears were streaming down my face. I scuttled to the nearest common room to drink some water. A junior doctor saw and followed me. As she drew closer, I could see her look of suspicion. "Are you ok?" she demanded. "I'm fine", I gasped, "I choked on a bit of apple!" She looked at me incredulously. "Are you sure? You look really unwell and short of breath." Rational thought seemed to be departing with the arrival of COVID-19.
This was not helped by the scarcity of PPE. For the most part, we have a reasonable provision of what is required. But the PPE that the World Health Organisation recommends does not correlate with what Public Health England are recommending; this seems to be a cheaper and more scaled-down version. The cost that this might have to healthcare professionals' lives is harrowing. The PPE situation in our trust is a lot better than it was initially. When we were admitting our first COVID patients to hospital and setting up dedicated COVID-19 wards, the Trust seemed to be changing their opinion on what was adequate PPE by the day, and this appeared to correlate to the availability of PPE within the hospital. The level of PPE that our country is suggesting is adequate also compares poorly to what some other countries have used.