Dr George Verghese, GP Partner at Waterloo Health Centre

Dr George Verghese has been a GP Partner at Waterloo Health Centre in Lambeth since 2013 and North Lambeth Primary Care Network since 2018. He is also Co-Chair of Lambeth Clinical Cabinet.

He reflects on the events of the last year and talks about his hopes for the future.

Recollections from the past year

I remember hearing about the virus way back in early March last year, when Italy started to hit the news in a big way, and thinking to myself, this could be something which really impacts our frontline work.

Then a few weeks later in April, the situation started to become very real. We started having to send staff home when they were in contact with anyone who tested positive. I was really concerned we were looking at an apocalypse type situation, requiring many more doctors than we had.

The first sign of hope came in the Autumn when the vaccine was developed, which was such a remarkable achievement.

Here in Lambeth, we started to work very closely with the GP Federation to get the vaccine out at GP level as quickly as possible. Twenty GP practices across Lambeth came together to set up the initial vaccine site. In fact the Hurley clinic was actually the first practice to start in SE London, with first 10 jabs delivered on the 14th December. A pretty momentous moment. We actually delivered 970 vaccines in that first week.

‘I’ve never been involved in anything like this, it feels pretty special’

Everyone – nurses, GPs, volunteers, practice staff, the GP Federation and Commissioners, have all worked so hard to pull everything together and expand our services, becoming as agile as possible. We’ve had to take on board so many new ways of doing things. It’s really heartening to see all the incredible work that is being done. Everyone has gone way and beyond what is required of them on. I’ve never been involved in anything like this, and although exhausting, it feels pretty special, especially now as we are seeing some of our bigger sites like Montgomery Hall in Lambeth delivering over 2000 vaccines a day. We’ve come a long way since the first vaccines in December.

Looking forward to more focus on community wellbeing

It’s hard to think of the future at the moment, other than wanting the vaccine to be rolled out to everyone, and the virus becoming just another respiratory infection.

But there have been some positive things to come out of this year as well – new, more inclusive, ways of working, more focus on communities and the opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of our patients.  I really hope we can take some of this positive momentum forwards.  

I also hope people recognise how hard our NHS staff and volunteers have worked and for such a sustained period.  We know people hold the NHS in high regard, but I really hope one thing to come out of this will be a renewed appreciation, and a positive recognition of just how committed NHS staff are to the communities they work in.