April 10, 2021

A Year In The Making

Normality – one step closer

We’re really excited about Monday 12th April, when as a nation, we take one step closer to regaining our lives. 

Non essential retail shops and stores are busy preparing this weekend to welcome us back in person.  Please support them, they need you. 

At Harpenden’s Hearing Healthcare Practice, it’s business as usual as we have been tasked to stay open throughout the last year, providing an essential service to enable improved communication between families, friends and colleagues. We Never Closed. 

We’ve continually adapted how we work to meet the changing regulations and our own professional guidance. We Never Closed. 

Back in March last year, our lights stayed on but our door was closed as we installed drop off and collection services  so people could arrange to bring in their hearing aids and tinnitus treatment sound generators for urgent repair or some much needed TLC.  Essential supplies were available everyday so we could help you to still hear. When things went wrong and some people found themselves isolated at home unable to hear over the telephone or take part in video calls, we realised how important it was we stayed open. Poor hearing was a factor in increased isolation which we now appreciate had a detrimental effect on mental health and well-being. We Never Closed. 

Whilst our streets remained eerily quiet, our phone rang constantly. We needed to find a way to work even if people couldn’t come in. Technology came to our rescue and we installed some specialist software that allowed us, via computers and the internet, to wirelessly connect to your hearing aids and programme them remotely. Counselling and audiological guidance was maintained uninterrupted through Zoom, FaceTime & Teams. We Never Closed.

This was a lifesaver to many but there were some who we did need to see in person. Our Ear Care Service (wax removal) was in great demand. On 15th June, we tentatively opened the door to pre-booked visits only as our initial supplies of facemarks, aprons, gloves and hospital scrubs arrived and we could deal with everyone already on our reservation list who had been patiently waiting to come in to have their blocked ears checked and cleared for them. There was huge pent up demand as many GP’s no longer provide this service and our hospitals were overran and staff requisitioned from their departments to work elsewhere within the NHS. We installed a temperature checkpoint at the door, provided copious amounts of hand gel around the building and increased our, already, vigorous hand hygiene controls.

In July, we received from Germany, five special full height floor-standing moveable screens which allowed us to resume consultations, sit just a few inches away from clients and maintain everyones safety. Visitors were limited to ‘one at a time’ on the premises so we could maintain distance and make sure no one ran into anyone else. A regime of cleaning, cleaning, cleaning became a new daily mantra and rooms were closed and allowed to lie fallow for a period of time between each visit. Our team remained at home as we can only work one at a time. We Never Closed.

We were able to resume full services by July but due to our self-imposed operational procedures, we could only see 20% of our usual visitors. Although this took its toll on all of us, we’ve been working flat-out and we thank you for being so patient.

Fast forward to January 2021, our national vaccination programme took off at a rapid pace and the most senior members of our communities and those most at risk, were first in-line to receive their jabs. Our team as essential healthcare workers were all invited in for early inoculations in the rollout of the programme and we’re now having our second jabs. 

Over the past 12 weeks, we’ve noticed a subtle change in the attitude of visitors to the practice, as people have had their vaccinations, they’re feeling more confident. Some have announced they don’t need to wear their masks and we’ve had to remind them that although they have some personal protection from becoming seriously ill, they can still pick up the virus and pass it on to others. So our regime of appointments by prior arrangement, a closed door policy, temperature checkpoint for all visitors and our team, facemasks and PPE, deep room cleaning, improved air circulation and purification, floor standing perspex screens, has to stay in place for the foreseeable future. Our professional operational guidelines are due for review on 1st June.

There are some clients and patients, shielding at home for up to a year, who are naturally nervous about venturing back out again. So as part of our new enhanced measures, our whole team will be tested twice weekly to make sure even the most vulnerable have the confidence our practice is the safest place to visit.

We will be letting more people visit so we will have more than one audiologist at a time seeing clients so we have installed staggered appointment times so there is only ever one person in the the reception area at a time. If you are coming in please always call ahead, and try to arrive promptly, so we can check you in you before the next person turns up.

Our resilience over the last 12 months has meant we never closed. We have been been able to welcome 2021 as our 40th year in continuous operation in Harpenden. Since 1981 our doors have remained constantly open and it will take far more than a global pandemic to close us now.

We look forward to welcoming you back, in the coming days, months and years ahead.

Thank you for your support.

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