Working Life: A pillar of the temple
Dr Mayank Shah describes a day as GP and trustee of the BAPS Hindu temple in north-west London
I prepare for morning clinic. Days consist of trainee teaching sessions, practice meetings, admin work and until recently, CCG committee and board meetings – now replaced by PCN meetings. Outside the practice, I have served as a trustee at the Neasden Temple, north-west London since 2012 and before that as head of the healthcare team. BAPS has 13 temples and 25 centres across the UK and Europe.
At our temple, I have lead responsibilities for all outreach activities. This includes an extensive range of health promotion and screening programmes, especially to identify cardiovascular risk factors. Last year, we celebrated 10 years of a unique partnership between a faith-based organisation and an NHS trust (the Royal Free Hospital), during which time we have screened more than 2,000 individuals. We also run an organ donation awareness programme and are one of the lead partners of NHS Blood and Transplant.
Over the years we have also partnered with more than 50 charities, local and national, covering a range of causes including social care, mental health, welfare of children and the elderly. Our members gain a greater understanding of the work of the charities, and the charities gain access to thousands of our members throughout the country. Of course, my day job as a GP is demanding in itself, and I have to fit in phone calls, emails and the odd telephone meeting relating to the charity work during the day – a constant juggling act!
Our daily lunchtime get-togethers mean a lot to the practice team. During the pandemic, the working day has become even longer and full of uncertainties. I have done 30 remote consultations today and overall, I find them more convenient than face-to-face – although they are not without challenges. This is an area that overlaps my trustee work.
The temple is accustomed to hundreds of visitors daily and several thousand worshippers every weekend. With the onset of Covid-19 we had to adapt quickly to a different, and remote, way of allowing worship. We decided to close our UK temples just before the first national lockdown in March. Members of our healthcare and management teams worked closely together on this, and we also helped address anxieties relating to the pandemic and its disproportionate impact on BAME communities.The temple opened for private prayers last summer but has remained closed since December as we observed an upward trend nationally in Covid cases.
I leave the practice, but my working day isn’t over. After a quick dinner with my family to catch up with them, I move onto my work with the temple.
Most evenings are dedicated to meetings, now remote, planning for the safe operation of the temples throughout the country, and helping to co-ordinate community support activities.
At the Neasden Temple, all projects are led by volunteers so the best time to have meetings is in the evenings or weekends. The most satisfying part is to witness the enthusiasm, commitment and drive of the team members. The Neasden Temple, recognising the isolation and vulnerability of those shielding at home in the pandemic , quickly set up a community support scheme, delivering 50,000 meal packages during the peak months, maintaining telephone contact with more than 4,000 elderly and vulnerable individuals and supporting frontline workers in healthcare as well as police, transport and ambulance services.
Meetings are finished. It’s time to unwind with some reading and TV. Being a GP has its own satisfactions but using those skills and expertise in a community setting brings even more. I need to be up early, as I am an enthusiastic weekend walker and have participated in the National Three Peaks Challenge and completed the Annapurna Base Camp trek in support of charities.
Dr Mayank Shah
Waltham Forest, east London
Senior GP partner, trainer for registrars and FY2 doctors and appraiser.
Medical director of Lotus Healthcare, provider of healthcare in the independent sector.
Trustee of BAPS Neasden Temple, previously head of its healthcare team.
Clinical director of Waltham Forest CCG, 2012-19