On the 23rd March 2020 the UK went into lockdown.

Camp Crackers

Camp Crackers

That was my first day as service manager for NHS Lothian’s COVID-19 assessment centre. As cases of the virus began to soar, patients required urgent treatment in a distinct, COVID-specific service. We brought together a team of nurses and medics who worked at the centre 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

My role was to ensure we had sufficient medical cover at the centre to treat the first wave of patients during the height of the pandemic. We recruited clinicians from all hospitals, primary care, university and research services. None of us had ever worked together before and it was all new to us. We learnt how to manage the virus and its impact. We had to adapt to using personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing in treatment areas and the constant sanitising regime. Everything had to be cleaned with disinfectant wipes. I had to get used to cleaning the phone before handing it to a colleague, wiping down a pen before asking someone to sign a document and wearing a mask.

We weren’t allowed to share cake with coffee, hug a colleague when they announced the birth of a grandchild or embrace junior staff when they moved on to a new job. Clothes worn to and from work were washed separately and shoes left outside the back door.

We were all in lockdown together and team members provided the only social contact we had. It felt like living in a bubble with the ongoing threat of catching the virus or having to self-isolate. It wasn’t until after the peak that our key focus of attention turned to an equally concerning matter, ‘When will the hairdressers be open?’

At Christmas I stepped back from managing the COVID assessment centre. By New Year 2021 I was tasked with a new challenge: to help set up six mass vaccination centres in Lothian, aiming to vaccinate 70,000 patients per week. My role has been to recruit and manage 120 reception staff who register patients as they arrive at the vaccination centres. They are the frontline of the vaccine experience and cope with all emotions expressed by the public: relief, excitement, anxiety and fear. The centres run for ten hours a day, seven days a week as we vaccinate the priority groups. Eventually every adult in Scotland will be offered the vaccine.

By profession I am an occupational therapist and I’ve worked in the NHS for over thirty-five years, moving into project and operational management. Many of my friends work in the NHS and we have a shared sense of humour.

The most frequent question I am asked is, “How do you find the time?”

I just have to squeeze more hours out of the day: switch off my work laptop and open up my Macbook. If I’m out for a walk I’m planning the next paragraph. While I’m cooking dinner I’ll dot back and forth between the kitchen and the bedroom, where I do my writing. Multi-tasking! Holidays are the ideal time for me to get a good chunk of work done.

Being a writer doesn’t finish with ‘The End’. Creating a snappy synopsis that will grab attention, co-designing an attractive book cover and engaging with readers through social media is all part of the job. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are helping me reach an international readership.

Fighting COVID has been my life for the last year - so I use writing to escape the pressure. I jump into a universe where there is no Internet, no news, no weekly figures or reports of daily deaths. I can absolutely get back to basics. What could offer more freedom than an empty field in Scotland? I can fill it with whatever I choose – crazy campers, outdoor adventures, bizarre happenings and plenty of laughs. Camp Crackers is an antidote to what’s going on in the world. Feel-good fiction should be prescribed on the NHS!