Challenges are Gifts

By Fiona McQueen. Scotland’s Chief Nursing Officer

If we ever needed courage and professionalism – then 2020 was certainly that.  Starting the year full of hope, as the hours of daylight gradually increased 2020 felt similar to the January’s of yesteryears.  For AHPs a new CAHPO and the creation of a new public health body (PHS) was presenting opportunities to build on the firm foundation that the professions had been building.  Wuhan was probably unheard of by most of us and we were in the luxurious state of being utterly oblivious of what was to come.  We would speculate on the new tennis season, or where we might travel on holiday…

Well, the rest is history and regardless of faith, the Christmas message of hope and goodwill is as important now as it ever has been.  Some readers will have suffered deep distress and loss due to SARS-CoV-2, others will have been less so; but none of us have been untouched by the destruction that this virus has reaped in our society.

But if any moment has called for us to rise to the test and show our challenges what we are truly made of, then caring for people with COVID-19 has surely been that test.  Against a backcloth of lockdown and bewilderment, AHPs across the country rose to that challenge (not forgetting the home schooling of children and parents who may be in Care Homes). 

The firm foundation of work that had gone on – such as early years interventions; MSK service at NHS 24; direct access to AHP services has shown us the ‘Be Prepared’ motto has never been truer.  And I recognise that some AHP services and practitioners have been more touched by the pandemic than others.  At all times this year, the people of Scotland have benefitted from AHPs right across the country, but our AHPs supporting COVID-19 patients – whether  physiotherapists in ITU delivering hands on care or providing advice in caring for patients in less acute settings have been life savers; our dieticians providing advice on national needs in the most severely ill patients – life savers.  And similarly, our mental health OTs whether providing support for people with illness in response to SARS-CoV-2 or ongoing support – life savers and life changers.

It wasn’t long into the pandemic when Carolyn McDonald, newly in post CAHPO swung into action and led the development of the Framework for suporting people through Recovery and Rehabilitation during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic which was published in August of this year. Reminding us of how well AHPs lead the way in prehabilitation, as well as developing community focussed and self-directed services.

So what will the future have in hold for us?  Well, I know AHPs stand ready to be innovative and creative in supporting people who need their support and intervention, but also in helping the country move forwards.  In addition to new and innovative ways of working many AHPs stand ready to help with the biggest public health response our country has ever seen by preparing themselves to get ready to vaccinate – not the typical role we would expect – but just that response from AHPs that I have come to be incredibly grateful for- leadership – citizens at the heart of your decision making- forward looking and creativity and professionalism.

And that response from everyone working in health and social care has taken its toll – on some more than others – so please don’t  forget Scottish Government’s response to create a National Wellbeing Hub offering support for all of us working in Health and Social Care who need it. Remembering it’s ok not to be ok.

As we move further into uncharted territories – shaped by mutant variants; further restrictions and a world that will always be different –let’s remember the kindness and compassion we have seen and experienced during 2020 and move forwards with confidence and hope that 2021 really will be better.


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