[NetBehaviour] How is everyone?

Edward Picot julian.lesaux at gmail.com
Sun Mar 22 19:51:48 CET 2020

Hi Ruth and everyone,

Actually work hasn't been so bad. We've gone from mainly face-to-face 
consultations to what they call 'total triage' - nobody gets to see the 
doctor without him telephoning them first - within the space of a week. 
The nurse is still seeing people: you can't do things like blood tests 
and dressings over the telephone. But she has to wear the protective 
gear - face mask, gown, gloves - and change it once every few patients; 
and we've cancelled all the non-urgent stuff, like diabetic checks and 
asthma checks, the aim being to only have one or two people in the 
surgery at a time, not counting the staff.

The local chemist has gone into meltdown. Everybody is panic-ordering 
their medication all at once. I went past the chemist on Saturday 
morning and the queue of people trying to get prescriptions was out the 
door. Lots of people are jumping ship from the local chemist to online 
pharmacies like Pharmacy2U, because the online pharmacies are set up to 
do home deliveries; but the elderly, who are the ones who really need 
home deliveries because they're the ones who can least afford to catch 
the virus, are least likely to make this move because they're the least 
techno-savvy section of society. There are other people who can help 
them out, though - 'social prescribing', which is where we direct 
patients to 'helping hand' agencies, has suddenly gone from being a 
peripheral thing to a front-and-centre option.

Two things we're trying to get up and running are video consultations 
and remote working. We were given a laptop about a year ago by the 
Health Authority, which works off a VPN link, and the idea is that if 
you're at home and stick your smart card in it, you can log into the 
clinical system at the surgery and see patient records and do electronic 
prescribing and stuff just as if you were there. This would be 
brilliant, especially if David (the doctor) has to self-isolate at some 
point but still feels well enough to work - but the VPN licence has run 
out. We contacted the IT department to get it renewed once the crisis 
started to get serious, about ten days ago now, but of course they've 
been overwhelmed, so they haven't sorted it out for us yet.

As regards video consultations - which would be really useful for things 
like people with rashes - we've managed to get these working via mobile 
phones, but it's very glitchy because the WiFi at the surgery keeps 
going wrong. Either it doesn't work at all, or it works with no internet 
connection, which has been pretty much how it's been ever since we had 
WiFi put in. The other option is to do video consultations on a desktop 
or laptop computer: there's a startup tech company called Nye, based in 
Oxford, which offers this for free, and we got it up and running on 
David's desktop, which is equipped with a USB camera - but then the 
camera immediately went wrong. This is pretty much how things work in 
the NHS. If the technology was in place and reliable, we could do a 
whole lot more.

The most frustrating thing for me and David, I think, is the sheer 
volume of updates we're being sent. If I see one more email titled 
'Covid-19 - urgent - for immediate action' I'm going to do an act of 
violence. You physically cannot keep up with all this stuff when the 
phone is constantly ringing and you've got a million other things to 
deal with. And the lack of testing is frustrating too. We've got a nurse 
who's been off for a week with Coronavirus-style symptoms, but of course 
we don't know whether it really is the Coronavirus or not - so if she 
comes back to work and then gets another sore throat, she'll have to 
self-isolate for another week.

On the other hand in some ways it's kind of exhilarating. Suddenly we've 
been given a licence to ignore all the bureaucratic crap we usually 
spend our time struggling with, and that's quite liberating; and the 
pace at which we've managed to reorganize our services, with a lot of 
cooperation from the patients, it has to be said, has been startling.

On a personal level my main concern has been shopping. I go to bed 
worrying about whether I'm going to be able to get any food in the shops 
the next day. I've done all right so far, but I normally don't get up to 
the Co-Op, which is our local supermarket, until after three o'clock, 
and by that time there's virtually nothing on the shelves; so I've been 
having to dodge out of work and make special trips up there at about 
9.30, once I've got somebody else to cover the front desk. The other 
thing is that my demented Mum is in a care home a few miles from here, 
and they've closed their doors to visitors, so instead of going to see 
her twice a week, all of a sudden I'm not seeing her at all, which is a 
big change to my routine.

You do get very fed up with the stupidity of the public at times, 
especially where things like panic buying and panic ordering of 
prescriptions are concerned. You think to yourself 'This is what we're 
like now - people have been brainwashed to be consumers, not citizens - 
they don't know how to act responsibly towards one another any more'. 
Then you come across people who are being really unselfish and helpful 
towards one another, and you realize that things are a lot more nuanced 
than that. And when I do get up to the Co-Op, everybody's giving 
everybody else elbow-bumps and making jokes about the state of things, 
and you think to yourself 'Oh well, at least there's one good thing 
about Britain - we do have a sense of humour'. You find yourself 
chatting to strangers, and you feel closer to the people who you already 
know, because there's a sense of all being in it together. Then 
something really annoying happens, or you have to deal with somebody 
who's being completely self-centred and unreasonable, and you're back to 
wanting to throttle everyone again.


On 22/03/2020 15:14, Ruth Catlow via NetBehaviour wrote:
> Hello all,
> This last couple of weeks have been full of chaos and uncertainty for 
> us in the UK - and much longer for others.
> The sudden shut down is clearly distributing immediate and extreme 
> hardship very unevenly.
> I personally found the indefinite postponement of Furtherfield's 2020 
> 'Love Machines' programme last Monday (in the week we had planned to 
> announce everything) incredibly hard to do, and to handle. I know we 
> will adapt and find another way to make things work, but that doesn't 
> stop it being incredibly disappointing, frustrating and disorientating.
> I'm now starting to adjust but I wanted to share this personal 
> (non-life-threatening) experience with you because I would like to 
> hear more from everyone about how the Corona virus is effecting them, 
> so we can build a better picture, beyond the numbers and the public 
> announcements, to understand how things are changing. And most of all 
> it would just be good to know how everyone is doing (from regular 
> contributors to all lurkers).
> Warmly
> Ruth
> -- 
> Co-founder & Artistic director of Furtherfield & DECAL Decentralised 
> Arts Lab
> +44 (0) 77370 02879
> *Furtherfield *disrupts and democratises art and technology through 
> exhibitions, labs & debate, for deep exploration, open tools & free 
> thinking.
> furtherfield.org <http://www.furtherfield.org/>
> *DECAL* Decentralised Arts Lab is an arts, blockchain & web 3.0 
> technologiesresearch hub
> for fairer, more dynamic & connected cultural ecologies & economies now.
> decal.is <http://www.decal.is>
> Furtherfield is a Not-for-Profit Company Limited by Guarantee
> Registered in England and Wales under the Company No.7005205.
> Registered business address: Carbon Accountancy, 80-83 Long Lane, 
> London, EC1A 9ET.
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