Roopak Khara

General Adult Psychiatrist, West London NHS Trust

Roopak KharaI come from a family of doctors which includes me, my three siblings and my dad. My mum is the glue holding us all together and both my parents have supported me in every way possible. Experiencing first-hand the value of a close support network really inspired me to want to help others and following training, I chose to work as a general adult psychiatrist.

I work in an intensive care ward in Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Unit which means caring for extremely vulnerable people with significant needs. I walk to and from work each day, as I find it helps me to clear my head. I plan my schedule on the way in, always carving out 30 minutes to spend with my patients doing non-clinical activities.  This includes everyday activities like reading the Metro, watching TV or doing a crossword together. It’s very often the highlight of my day.

My role has changed a lot since the pandemic started. I was asked to be the medical lead on a new ward – Avonmore Ward – to care for patients with severe mental illness who test positive for Covid-19.  I felt nervous initially, and full of adrenaline, but I said yes and started the next day.

When I put myself in my patients’ shoes, I can see why the ward is so important. Coronavirus is hard enough for anyone, but even more challenging for patients with a mental or behavioural disorder. Very quickly, we brought together an incredible, diverse team from across West London NHS Trust. Everyone is a specialist in their area, from the domestic team to the porters to the doctors to the nurses and everyone played a key role in responding to the national crisis.

Everyone admits that being put on a Covid-19 ward was scary at first, but we took on the challenge without hesitation. It involved difficult conversations with our families, but we all agreed that we wanted to support our patients during this unprecedented time.

On my days off, my hobbies help me unwind from the pressures.  I love the arts, everything from photography to creative writing. I’m also a qualified make-up artist – it’s such a different skill, but I think having other areas of interest, helps to make me a better doctor.

I’m so incredibly proud and honoured to represent the team which set up Avonmore Ward to care for patients with severe mental illness who’ve tested positive for Covid-19. Everyone, from the porters to the domestic team to doctors and the nurses, came together to care for our patients in response to the national crisis. The team truly represents the spirit of the NHS in action.