As the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out continues across Scotland, seven Fife GPs had extra reason to feel proud on Saturday and Sunday when they were rostered on vaccination duty within the town where they all went to school.
Dr Callum Duncan, 44, of Pipeland practice, St Andrews; his wife Dr Sara McQuitty, 44, of Airlie practice, Methil and Dr Steve Macfarlane, 44, of Blackfriars practice, St Andrews, were on duty doing extra shifts at the Covid vaccination hub in Corn Exchange, Cupar, alongside Sara’s sister Dr Kirsty McQuitty, 41, of Muiredge practice, Buckhaven, and Dr Hannah Dakin, 52, Dr Graham Thomson, 39, and Dr Rebecca Thomson, 40, all of Airlie practice, Methil.
The seven GPs, who all live locally, are former pupils of Bell Baxter High School in Cupar.
They were supported by other NHS staff, many of whom also attended Bell Baxter.
Dr Duncan, a father-of-four who lives in Cupar, told The Courier: “NHS Fife recently changed their policy and allowed GPs to help out with the vaccinations.
“On days off we’ve been trying to do vaccines, so it feels like I’m not seeing my kids much!
“Myself and (Dr) Steve happened to catch the timetable for Saturday and realised all the GPs on duty were former Bell Baxter pupils.
“Then I noticed the Sunday timetable as well were another batch of all former Bell Baxter pupils.
“The whole service, of course, involves so many others from within the NHS. We are only a part of the team not its entirety. I know some of the vaccine support team are also locals and ex-Bell Baxter pupils.
“But it’s nice that the community of Cupar that produced us can now reap the rewards during these difficult times.”
Dr Duncan, who was in the same year at Bell Baxter as his wife Sara and Dr Steve, and who studied medicine at Glasgow University together, said there’s no doubt the last year had been “difficult” for GPs and they had all been working very hard.
However, while there had been some recent negative headlines concerning the roll-out of the vaccine in Fife amid issues out-with GPs’ control, the overall experiences they were having on the frontlines were of jab recipients being “really positive”.
“The GP practices in Fife were only initially asked to do the over-80s who were able to come into the practice,” he said.
“But we were all very keen to be more involved and now we’ve been given an avenue to get involved.
“As a result the vaccines are now being delivered more effectively across Fife because we are trying to fill the staffing gaps where we can.”
Dr Duncan added that from the perspective of GPs who have had to do a lot of work remotely over the past 11 months, it was also “really joyful” to be able to see more patients face-to-face again and they were all feeling “much more positive” about the situation.
He added: “It’s been really joyful to be able to see people again face-to-face and we’ve been able to provide what seems to be the beginning of the end of Covid.
“It’s really been rewarding for us. I think it’s really nice just to get some positivity out there.”
Last week health chiefs in Fife were again forced to defend their handling of the Covid-19 jag programme as the region has been the slowest in Scotland.
Data published by Public Health Scotland revealed the number of people who have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccination in Fife was 14.64% -the lowest rate of all health boards in Scotland.
An IT glitch earlier last week caused 7000 incorrectly booked appointments which led to lengthy waits at clinics, many having to stand in the cold and one pensioner reportedly collapsing.
But NHS Fife has insisted “significant progress” has been made to speed up the vaccine rollout.