A&E was packed. Doctors and nurses were running around all over the place. This must be in London, Birmingham or Manchester. One of the great cities of the British Isles that are groaning at their seams. But no. This hospital was in Northampton. It was full to bursting and severely understaffed.
None of this is the fault of the staff. Nor is it the fault of the patients. The NHS is a victim of its own success by pushing the boundaries of medical care. We are living longer than ever before. Something that our politicians are finally recognising. The problem is that the other vital infrastructure needed to support this, hasn’t caught up.
Governments think of everything in the short term. This way of thinking has slowly dripped down into all aspects of life. This short term thinking is in direct conflict with the long term planning that the NHS is crying out for. It operates by using targets to prove efficiency. A hospital or a school isn’t a machine. You don’t pump one thing in one end and get a product at the end. People aren’t commodities. Yet the management strategies being adopted fail to recognise or question this.
Healthcare, as well as education and to some degree, law enforcement, involves dealing with the whole individual rather than the illness, the exam or the crime. The only place where this is really done in society is when someone wants you to buy something. Go to any car dealership and they are trying to find out every aspect about you to find a car suitable to your needs. The same goes with property and estate agents. You are even asked for your name when you buy a coffee which puts in perspective one of the junior doctors who had been so busy, she didn’t have time to remember her patients’ names.
This is something the junior doctors in Confessions of a Junior Doctor know all about. We saw an oncology junior doctor being brave enough to tell her consultant that she wouldn’t be hurrying her rounds. Her superior was informed that if she didn’t take the time to reassure and listen to one particular patient, he would get extremely anxious and possibly talk of suicide.
On another ward, another junior took the time to find out why a relatively healthy twenty year old man was only weighing four stone. What he discovered by just listening, was that the patient was using cannabis heavily. Although cannabis is famous to inducing the munchies, if overused, like alcohol, it can suppress appetite. I thought the consultant was going to kiss the junior doctor for discovering this. The man had often been in and out of hospital and he was a bit of a mystery. Yet the junior doctor found out the root cause of the problem just by listening.
Such stories give you hope that all is not lost. But these are doctors who are going against the system. They are doing what they think is right, not what some of their superiors want them to do. Now they can just about get away with it. Whether they could get away with this in five years’ time, no one knows.