It is one year since our group met indoors. Since then, following the Covid restrictions, at first we had no meetings and then in late summer we met face to face outdoors. Since then and the second lockdown in November and the third at the turn of the year we have used Zoom to meet.
Understandably, the numbers attending have dropped and we are all looking forward to getting back to normal. There are many questions around that possibility and it is likely many things have changed for ever.
So what lessons have been learned? What will laryngectomy care look like and what would we like to see?
- All our group members have now had their first Covid vaccination and in a few months will have had their second. A return to “normal” may not happen quickly because vaccines do not give 100% protection and a further wave of infection in the autumn is anticipated by many scientists.
- Chesterfield Royal Hospital is promoting online out-patient meetings and I have just recorded a video supporting their campaign for this development. Of course many appointments have to be face to face, but for others a videoconference is just as effective and for both patient and clinician they are very easy to manage.
- I use the cheapest voice prosthesis, a Blom-Singer duckbill valve, and have recently replaced one after 12 months service. I change the valve myself and was unaffected when valves services were restricted last summer. Valve plugs and liquid thickeners are a poor substitute for having a leaking valve changed in a timely fashion. Why have patient changeable valves apparently fallen out of fashion? They are cost efficient for the NHS and the patient benefit is considerable.
- Laryngectomees have been used to having an annual influenza jab, regardless of age. It will be perfectly manageable if we have to do the same for Covid.
- During the pandemic, life-saving laryngectomy operations have continued. In some areas peer support for patients from previous laryngectomees has been possible. There is no excuse for this not being offered, via video or otherwise.