“It was something that was really useful"
A doctor who produced the first Covid-19 guidelines for GPs across the UK has received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Abdul Hafeez, aged 47, of Trafford, Greater Manchester, has been recognised for his services to the NHS, particularly during the pandemic.
He is the founder and chief executive for the Association of Pakistani Physicians and Surgeons of the United Kingdom (APPS UK).
Dr Hafeez has also been recognised for his engagement with ethnic minority communities and share vital information on the pandemic.
At the start of the lockdown, he set up the Corona Urdu Helpline.
It has been used as an essential portal for Urdu speakers.
Being the only support service of its kind at the time, it quickly became a valuable resource for ethnic minorities across the country.
Dr Hafeez, who is also a GP in Bolton, said the idea stemmed out of a need to help reassure and provide advice to people from different backgrounds.
Dr Hafeez told Manchester Evening News:
“There is quite a high ethnic minority population in the area I work in.
“During the beginning of the pandemic, there was little information and people were contacting me for advice.
“People were looking for help and reassurance because they didn’t know exactly what they should be doing.
“I realised they were much more comfortable in expressing themselves when they spoke to me in their own language and I was able to be more reassuring to them than maybe a translator would.
“We set the helpline up as a way to make people aware of the public health guidance and what to do if they had any symptoms.
“It was instinct to see what you can do to protect your staff and patients and provide a good service.
“It was something that was really useful to those who needed to hear it in their own language.”
The doctor was also the first to produce specific guidelines for GP surgeries to protect staff and patients from Covid-19.
The guidelines were produced before the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in the UK. They were later adopted by GPs across the country.
He continued: “We had little information in the beginning on what we needed to do to protect ourselves.
“We started cleaning up areas, wearing gloves and taking precautions.
“We didn’t know what to really do when patients came in with notes or pieces of paper, we didn’t know if we could touch them or not.
“We started putting a line in the surgery reception for people to wait behind and people thought it was very unusual at the time.
“I produced an information leaflet that was shared on our social media and then people began forwarding it to other groups and GPs.
“I was even sent it by someone as guidelines I should look at and follow.
“It was a sort of a survival instinct because we all have been through a very tough time.”
“I know how we and our families felt when we knew we were going to work where anybody could walk in with symptoms.
“Eating with family and spending time together after you had been at work all became very concerning.
“We bought our own masks and wore double gloves just as a way of trying to be ahead of the game really.”
During the pandemic, Dr Hafeez also held more than 20 webinars on Covid-19 for doctors.
He also led a free virtual work experience programme for A-Level students studying medicine whose work placements were cancelled.
Over 500 students took part in the six-week programme.
Dr Hafeez said: “My daughter was doing her A-Levels and was applying for medicine then all of sudden she received an email to say her placement was cancelled.
“She was so worried and didn’t know how to go forward.
“As part of the APPS UK, we had been running free interview skills preparation courses so we decided to start running free virtual work experience workshops.
“The students got a chance to hear from surgeons, physicians, end of life care and GPs and it felt like they were there sitting with them in their own clinic.
“While they weren’t directly being taught about medicine, they were getting experience on the issues the different specialities all faced.”
The success of the workshops mean that they are set to return later in 2021.
On his thoughts about receiving an MBE, Dr Hafeez said:
“It’s quite exciting to have news like this all of sudden.
“The work to be recognised by the head of state is quite a big honour, especially for people like me who actually come from a different country.
“It’s nice to show we have established ourselves and done some amazing work.”