Devon GP practice team defies the snow as GP stays over and community nurse takes to quad bike

2 March 2018

A Devon GP slept two nights on the floor of his Exmoor practice and a community nurse took to a quad bike to ensure that patients were cared for as snow drifts closed in around the cliff top town of Lynton.

We have sensible and safe plans to keep things running

Dr Glen Allaway clears a path through the snow to his practice in Lynton

Dr Glen Allaway took a sleeping bag, soup and sandwiches so that he could keep Lynton Health Centre open after sending his two other GP colleagues - including his wife - safely home as temperatures plummeted.

With the main road into the town closed following an accident, Dr Allaway was mostly limited to consultations by telephone, but he was determined to keep services running.

"I've been stranded before in bad weather and stayed with people who run B&Bs locally, so this time I planned ahead and brought my sleeping bag," he said.

"We have sensible and safe plans to keep things running, it just means doing things slightly differently. I have had to give advice on the telephone to patients who I would normally want to see, but they simply can't get here safely so I'm giving advice and they know where I am if anything changes.

"The local shop has pretty much run out of supplies but I have everything I need so I'm fine doing this while others get out and enjoy it where they can."

Receptionist, Clare Hartgen, lives on the outskirts of Lynton and moved her dogs to be cared for by a relative so that she could be on hand to open the surgery at 8am and support Dr Allaway throughout the critical weather days.

Our health and social care teams have gone above and beyond

Nursing team manager, Alison Tyrrell, took to a quad bike to get to her most rural patients

Meanwhile, community nursing teams battled to get to their patients in remote settings, including the intrepid Nursing Team Manager Alison Tyrrell, who took to a quad bike to get to her most rural patients about five miles away in the village of Parracombe.

Alison said, "Luckily, we got back before there was a complete whiteout, but the wind was vicious, blowing the snow into huge drifts. We had to dig the bike out twice!"

Mrs Chris Thomas, health and social care community services manager in north Devon, said, "During this exceptionally cold and snowy weather, our health and social care teams have gone above and beyond in so many ways to make sure that the most vulnerable people we serve are safe and receive the care they need. 

“Some of our patients live in remote areas which have become 'cut off' from the outside world and we have examples of many staff walking miles to see people and working together to make sure all needs are met. 

"Alison is a fabulous example of someone who always puts her patients first; working in treacherous conditions and digging herself out of snow drifts to make sure her patients are safe, well and get the treatments they need.

“This is just the sort of thing she would always do, being very used to working in remote locations and taking it all in her stride. 

“I am really proud of what all our teams have done over the last few days to go above and beyond what we could expect of them.

“Each one of them is a hero in my mind and my thanks go to them.”

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