A DOCTOR has described the ‘unprecedented and bizarre’ experience of returning to clinical work at Ayrshire’s COVID-19 Control Centre.

Public Health Doctor Rachel Thomson watched the news of the virus’ spread from China to Europe not imagining the devastating impact it would have.

When it became clear that coronavirus would need to be fought in the UK, she volunteered to return to NHS Ayrshire and Arran (NHSA&A) to help manage the public health response to the pandemic.

Dr Thomson said: “Some of my friends asked me if I thought it would have a big impact. I said no, because these things have been well contained.

“When Italy and Spain started to lockdown, I started to think there was a real chance I would get called into this.”

The 29-year-old did not wait to be called upon, she sent an email, offered her expertise and was deployed to the NHSA&A COVID-19 control centre in Ayr.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Ayrshire's COVID-19 Control CentreAyrshire's COVID-19 Control Centre

She said friends joked that if her pager goes off then ‘it must mean the end of the world as we knew it’.

“Turns out they weren’t entirely wrong,” she said.

Dr Thomson and the rest of the team are responsible for the management and coordination of any local outbreaks, including giving out advice.

Most frequently, this means working with staff and managers at care homes throughout Ayrshire.

The team would organise any testing for the virus required, phone and check with homes on the developments of outbreaks, document any new cases and offer support where they could.

Dr Thomson said: “You have conversations with people who are really upset. Qquite a lot of the time these residents are like family to the staff.

“We’re asking if anybody else has passed away. That’s really hard to put down that phone, and absorb all of that.

“It’s something I remember from working in hospitals: you can’t take on board all of the tragedy of everything you see or else you’ll cease to function.

“I hope people realise that those who work in social care are just as integral. Often working for a lot less recognition, a lot less money, and a lot less status and I think they do an incredible job.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Socially distanced lunch together in the hospital courtyardSocially distanced lunch together in the hospital courtyard

When asked if she would describe the pandemic as feeling like we are at war, Dr Thomson said she thinks of pre-COVID life as ‘peace time’.

She said: “There are aspects of it that feel like that, the constant readiness, the awareness, the stress.

“It is an unprecedented, bizarre experience we are all living through. We really have pulled together quite well. That’s the stuff people remember.”

Read more on Doctor Thomson's account here.