Dr Debika Banerjee is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with specialist interest in perinatal mental health and is associated with the Countess of Chester Hospital in the National Health Service (NHS).
iGlobal caught up with the medic for this latest edition of our Frontline Series against the backdrop of ongoing NHS industrial action, including strikes just announced by junior doctors for next month.
Dr Banerjee sought to reassure the public over their primary healthcare needs through these tough times and also shared some valuable self-care tips.
How should we tackle anxiety through these uncertain times?
We must all admit that a state of flux has replaced the sense of certainty, stability and familiarity that people were used to. The present times are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The healthcare system has also been affected by this. This naturally has the potential to destabilise people and make them anxious.
Firstly, I would like to reassure that though emergency services have been stretched thin because of the immense challenges of the present times, it has managed to cope to a large extent.
Nobody should put off seeking emergency care, as the essential life-saving services are set to continue. Primary care is not affected by the currently planned strikes, so people should continue to attend their GP or dental appointments.
As always, anyone who needs less urgent care can also use NHS 111 online for advice.
Look after yourselves, take responsibility for personal care and disease prevention, and form support groups to help each other. The pandemic has taught us to do this. Continue to stretch out your helping hands within the community.
What are your views on the NHS strikes?
Ideally, and the best way, of course, would have been that this situation never arose. However, it is also important to realise that we have to take care of ourselves to be able to care for others.
How are the frontline workers coping under extraordinary pressures; and how do you unwind after a hard day’s shift?
In challenging times like the present, I think it is most important to remind each other of our incredible work – a pat on the back goes a long way in lifting spirits. It's always a moral boost to feel appreciated. There is a lot of support available trust-wide, offering a wide range of services for both physical and mental wellbeing. I believe we should also take regular breaks from work, plan leave and look after ourselves.
I have a principle in life – switch on and switch off. I tend not to carry work home as much as possible. Family time is very important to me; as a rule, we sit and chat over dinner with all gadgets off! Personally, I love dancing, and I put on any music and move to the rhythm for 10 minutes to dance my stress away.
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Given your specialisation, please share some advice for would-be mothers?
All hospital-based maternity services are ongoing as usual. Planned ambulance strikes may impact your planned homebirth. It would be good to arrange alternative transport in case of an emergency during this time. Please be flexible with birth plans. We are always there to support you and keep you safe.
Being anxious about giving birth is very common. Childbirth is a major life event, so don't be hard on yourself for having these feelings. However, if you tend toward worrying in the first place, speak to your midwives. There is plenty of help available for your mental wellbeing- just ask for it!
What are some first aid basics we should all have in stock?
Firstly, I would advise seeking medical help appropriately. Essential basics to keep handy at home would include a thermometer, plasters, antiseptic solutions, and paracetamol.
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Finally, please share some pocket-friendly self-care tips.
Me-time is essential for one's wellbeing. Be gentle to yourself. It's not selfish to want some dedicated time for oneself. Regular uninterrupted me-times help our brains to unplug, unwind and function better. It's as essential as one's car MOT!
Slow down, pause a little and enjoy the bounty of nature around you.
Meet up with friends in a park with a picnic – chat, laugh and unleash the child within you.
Stay away from comparison. Social media is not all you see.
Happiness is very personal and cannot be measured with someone else's yardstick!