Yesterday morning, Catherine Beanland, partner at Portcullis Surgery in the heart of Ludlow spoke to BBC Radio Shropshire about how Ludlow has reacted to the Covid-19 epidemic and how our community has responded. Telling Eric Smith and Clare Ashford that she initially feared as many as 200 deaths in Ludlow, she said how proud she was of how Ludlow responded to the emergency. She praised the care homes and Ludlow Community Hospital for how their staff selflessly coped with the arrival of Covid-19 in the Ludlow area. She praised the “enormous sacrifice” of time and family life that carers in Ludlow have made.

Dr Beanland stressed that we are not out of the woods yet. It’s an ongoing battle not a victory. But Ludlow has coped well because our community has worked together to prepare for the arrival of the pandemic and lockdown, and support people during it.

Listen to the interview.

The interview followed a press statement from Dr Beanland issued to the media at the weekend (reproduced below). She told Eric and Clare that Ludlow has a very high elderly population and a very high level of people with long term illnesses – so we were expecting being at the higher end of the spectrum for impact of Covid-19. But all of us have pulled together as a community, right from the beginning. There has been loads of support for volunteering in Ludlow and more than 1,000 calls have been answered for help. Elderly and vulnerable people have been able to remain in their homes because volunteers have taken on their shopping and picked up medication.

Catherine said she has been absolutely overwhelmed by how care homes have coped in Ludlow. We have had some cases in Ludlow care homes but they have been immediately brought under control. Some of these care homes have shut down access, asked some staff to live in the home, sending others home if they had family members to look after. Several of our care homes have had zero cases of Covid-19 because the residents have been completely shielded and protected.

The wards in Ludlow Community Hospital were changed around, with Covid-19 positive patients kept apart from others, eliminating cross infection. Patients discharged from the main hospitals have been admitted to Ludlow Hospital for isolation, instead of going home immediately. Catherine praised the amazing effort by the hospital management.

(The latest Pulling Together Ludlow briefing.)

The presenters also spoke Sue Grehan, proprietor of Alexandra House off Gravel Hill, which is registered for 22 residents. She said that half the staff were furloughed and the others remained in the home, unable to see their friends and families. Because of the total lockdown, there were no Covid-19 cases in the care home. She said it had been challenging for staff members but they had done the right thing. The staff have returned to live in their homes but Alexandra House remains locked down.

Press release from Dr Catherine Beanland

The actions of our volunteers and our staff in Ludlow Hospital and in Ludlow Care Homes have ensured that cases of COVID-19 have remained low in the area.

I was completely moved the other day. I was speaking to a care home manager who explained to me how she had been working 55-hour weeks or more for the past few months and was feeling exhausted. I asked her why she had been working so many hours. She explained that in order to protect the residents in their home they had identified all the staff who had children or husbands who worked and sent them home under the furlough scheme. This ensured that all the staff remaining working in the home had hardly any contact with the outside world and other people. Residents in effect were completely insulated and shielded from the virus. The scheme has worked. Not a single resident in that care home has been infected with COVID-19. What an amazing achievement, I said to her, she responded:

“I could not have lived with the guilt if I had not protected them”.

These actions have been mirrored all around Ludlow and have resulted in incredibly low positive infections, my practice to date has had only 13 patients test positive for Covid-19 out of nearly 8000 patients and there have been no deaths in my practice actually caused by the virus so far (only two patients who were palliative died while virus positive, having picked it up in the district hospital when admitted there).

In Ludlow Hospital, everyone has worked incredibly hard in order to ensure increased cover to manage sicker patients on the wards. The real heroes have been our incredible team of nurses on the ward who have worked extra shifts, weekends and long hours in order to ensure increased coverage of the hospital. All our physiotherapists, social workers and so forth have worked in more flexible patterns. That ensured increased cover and a more rapid turnover and discharge for patients on the ward. As soon as it was acknowledged that many patients could be contagious without showing symptoms, the wards were transformed by our nurses on the ward in order to ensure that possible Covid-19 positive patients were kept isolated from all other patients and that staff had adequate PPE. This protected the rest of the patients on the ward, as well as the staff, from being infected by the virus. This has been an amazing achievement.

Finally, the incredible response to Pulling Together Ludlow led by local councillors, the Ludlow Hospital League of Friends, Hands Together Ludlow and both GP practices have ensured that shielded patients have remained in their homes. They have not had to worry about shopping or medication deliveries with the help of our fantastic volunteers.

The number of positive patients has dramatically fallen in recent weeks. But we must remain vigilant and try and maintain prudent social distancing while continuing to get the town economy moving again and all health services back to more normal levels. Clearly the road ahead is still long and Covid-19 is by no means beaten but I just wanted to take a moment to thank and congratulate all the staff in our care homes and our hospital and our amazing volunteers for their amazing achievement so far.

I am in no doubt that if it had not been for the actions of the care home staff and the staff in Ludlow Hospital as well as our volunteers, we would have been in a far worse position. By ensuring correct PPE was used, by isolating and shielding our most vulnerable patients in their homes, care homes or in the hospital, we have so far protected the people of Ludlow from this terrible virus. 

Dr Catherine Beanland
GP Ludlow Portcullis Surgery

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