Posts tagged with Working in the NHS


Unnatural Selection

By way of a reply to WD and Dr Boots' latest comments on Dr No's last post.

In Dr No's medical student days, most medical students were WASP males. There was a lot of rugger, and high jinks, à la Daily Hail, only in those days, having studied Latin and so Roman habits, we knew how to throw up properly.

About fifteen years later, about ten years ago from now, Dr No had already noticed a shift away from WASP medical students towards more BME and more female students. He even remarked on it during a tea and biscuits break on a ward round - and a health service fattie, a psychologist of all things, all but exploded, but thankfully didn't, because all the tea and biscuits inside her would have made a terrible mess.

Exception Report

Twitter health news of the weekend was iDoc, a Department of Health initiative to slash surgery visits by replacing them with technology, and so save nearly £3 billion. The fire was started late on Saturday evening at 11:11pm - 11 minutes, Dr No notes, after the end of The Killing (BBC Four), the Danish villains in high places procedural - by the ever vigilant Dr G, who tweeted ‘High hopes for IT at the GP's surgery’ and linked to the next day’s Sunday Expresso front page: “END OF THE DOCTOR'S SURGERY”. By Sunday morning the story was crackling nicely round twitter. Doctors would be replaced with iDocs, noctors by iNocs, and patients by iPocs. Skypesults and tweetsults would replace consults, and hashtags like #squits and #spotteddick would trend, allowing the @CMO to gauge at any time the #healthofthenation. It was not, it is fair to say, a vision which was warmly welcomed by medical tweeters and bloggers. Dr No even wrote a post, but choose not to publish, unlike McMargo, who rounded the day off with a heartfelt post that warned over-adoption of medical IT risked throwing granny out with the tea leaves. Dr No couldn’t agree more.

Alma Mater

Today is Mothering Sunday, the day when we thank and honour the mother who has nurtured us. Dr No has been doing his filial duty - when it comes to Mothering Sunday even Dr No says 'Yes' - but thinking of nurturing set him thinking of the other nurturances and influences that have shaped the way he is. There are a number, but without doubt many cluster round his years as a medical student, when a young, volatile, opinionated, yet still malleable teenager was transformed at the anvil of apprenticeship into a brash and brittle junior Dr No, who walked the wards burning bright from the heat of the forge.

Captain Mainwaring’s Casualty

Late April 2016. As hospital consultants and staff doctors across England prepare for the first ever full walk out by junior doctors, similar preparations take place at Walmington-on-Sea…

Scene: The local District General Hospital Casualty Department. Mainwaring and his platoon stand facing each other. All are wearing baggy theatre greens with stethoscopes draped in the modern fashion round their necks, except Wilson who is wearing a Prince of Wales check suit, with a large neurologist’s hat-pin in his lapel. Frazer has on an ENT surgeon’s head mirror, flipped to the up position, and the light reflects off it like a heliograph as he darts glances here and there. Mainwaring has a vintage WWII flare pistol in a holster on a belt, strictly for emergency use only.

MAINWARING: Hurry up and get changed, Wilson.

Toothless Wonder

Dr No gazed in open-mouthed if not toothless wonder as the first episode of Frankie (BBC1) unfolded last night. Not content to be the life and soul of the party, Frankie, a SuperNurse for the time being on the district beat, is the life and soul of the known universe. In a script that pasted it on like a bricklayer mortaring a wall, Frankie was given lines to assist even the dimmest viewer to a full comprehension of Frankie’s awesome powers. When cutbacks have ordinary doctors and nurses quivering, what does Frankie do? Why, she laughs at the cuts! When a cut of a literal sort threatens to come her way in the hands of a demented war veteran, she turns the other cheek. Nothing is beyond the toothless wonder’s extraordinary powers. When a child arrests in her car, Frankie becomes paramedic and then emergency ambulance driver; later, she turns her hand to a spot of midwifery. Dr No suspects Frankie has a fold-up operating theatre in the boot of her car, and in later episodes will turn her hand to a spot of surgery. Nothing is beyond Frankie for, as she told at least one gagging viewer, ‘the world is her patient’. When not fixing the world, Frankie likes to turn up the stereo, and dance, turning the show into a musical: Frankie Goes To Bollywood. Truly, nothing is beyond Frankie, but then, Dr No supposes, that is what happens when you have done Torchwood. Even Captain Jack has been turned into a shadow of his former self, a hapless plod who’s always got the wood, but never gets his way, because every time he gets his pecker out, Frankie’s away.

Guidelines, Contracts and Revalidation

"Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the blind obedience of fools."

–attrib. various1

An editorial in the JRSM by the formidable Dr McCartney, who tosses articles as lesser Jockettes do cabers, helped crystallise some bitter salts that have of late been swilling around the vague stream of consciousness that passes for Dr No’s thoughts. The gist of it is that doctors have had enough of being pushed about, demeaned, and generally told what to do, all of which are anathema to the professional mind. For GPs straining to meet Quality and Outcomes Framework targets, the doctor-patient centred consultation has become the government-contract centred consultation. Hospital doctors no longer manage or treat their patients, they protocol them through pathways, all too often watched over by guidelines of not so loving grace. Juniors no longer routinely strive for excellence; instead, they slavishly strive for ticks in boxes. All through medicine, the opportunity for individual, creative, effective and satisfying practise has been flattened under the weight of rules, guidelines, pathways, contracts and targets.

If Only

A good traveller leaves no track

–Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Ch. XXVII

JT, the well known member of the London Aesculapian Fracture Club, has written another excellent essay, on the feelings engendered in doctors by their patients. This is a taboo but utterly central part of all medical practice, but it is in the over-lapping theatres of general practice and psychiatry that it regularly achieves elephant in the consulting room status. Just as we doctors all love – and that is a word we shall come back to – our good patients, so too do we struggle not to shun, displace and avoid those patients we find distasteful. For many doctors, this one included, it is often the patients we have rejected and failed that we remember most vividly. A chill shudder of shame still strikes Dr No when he recalls some of his more disgraceful moments, like the time he berated a little old lady for insisting on a unnecessary home visit, when he should instead have seen a lonely soul in need of a hug.

The Curse of a Fortunate Man

Over the years Dr No has encountered a number of single handed general practices. His first encounter was on a Scottish island, as a student, in a practice made memorable by two things: the sweet malt smell from the oil drum sized barrel of beer that brewed beside the kitchen range, and the loan of the practice Land Rover, with a licence to roam the island. Later, as a locum, he found single-handed GPs on leave a reliable source of work: he could be transported, as if by a revolving door, to the seat of a single handed GP. For a week or two, he had eyes-only access to almost every aspect of the practice. He saw the intimate details first hand, not as a squinting sociologist might, but as a living participant. And living practices they certainly were, but pretty rum many of them were too. Too often for comfort, opening a drawer in search of a prescription pad, Dr No was greeted not with a jumble of papers, tongue depressors and broken tape measures, but with the clink-chink of bottles of high proof but non-surgical spirit.

Affection Love and Duty, These Three

Dr No’s mother is a heartsink patient, and she happens to be dying. Unpalatable as they may be, Dr No says these two things as matters of fact. On one level, as a doctor, he cannot not see his mother as he would see a patient – and the hallmarks of heartsinkery are undeniably present. Although Dr No has had a hunch about prognosis for some time, it was his mother’s consultant who gave it form, in a measure of months. She is a heartsink patient, with only months left to live. Those who care to opine that heartsink is a term of derogatory abuse might also care to reflect that the term is not so much a patient label, notwithstanding the inescapable fact it is one, as a useful term from the lexicon of countertransference, under the general heading of those feelings and emotions engendered in a doctor by his or her patient. Countertransference matters: those who choose to ignore it do so at great peril, not just for the patient, but also for themselves.

A Dark Nurse

Dr No’s mother has been admitted to hospital – at home. This NHS wheeze is a worthy idea, which Dr No supports. On paper, it is win-win: patients stay in their beloved homes, and the NHS saves money. In practice, it has one minor but fatal flaw. The hospital has a matron, kit in abundance, OTs, you name it, but no ward nurses. It is a hospital without nurses on its wards, and like all hospitals without nurses on the wards, it doesn’t work. Ironically, the money saved by not admitting patients to real hospitals could fund these nurses, but no one in the NHS has spotted this, and so the idea remains worthy, but doomed to fail. One supposes that were Crippen still blogging, he would have done hospital at home full justice, as he once did for another NHS corker, the hospital at night, a hospital whose defining characteristic was not an absence of nurses – rather the opposite in fact – but an absence of doctors.