A good friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She is not comfortable with hospitals or things medical, tending to feel faint as soon as her first footprint enters the building, so I have been accompanying her to the various appointments and scans as moral support and a distraction.
Yesterday she had to have yet another scan which took more than two hours from start to finish. During that time I had to make myself scarce, so I wandered round the hospital, its grounds and the surrounding area, taking a few photos at the same time. Not that I am recommending it, but if you are going too get sick, the view from the hospital couldn't surely get any grander......
and a 5-minute walk away got me here.......
Meanwhile, still on the subject of hospitals and the good old National Health Service, my gorgeous daughter Kay has already completed two months in her role as a junior doctor (not at this hospital, I should add) and is thoroughly enjoying the experience. She has to do three 4-month placements in her first year as an F1 (Foundation Year 1) doctor and will need to follow this with another three 4-month placements as an F2 (Foundation Year 2) doctor next year, after which she will be fully accepted as a registered doctor. So she is already halfway through her very first placement.
Her contracted hours are 9 am -5pm, including being on-call one weekend in four. The on-call shifts covers responsibility for "emergencies" around the whole hospital and that includes new patient intake from A&E. That's the theory, but in practice on weekdays she usually starts on the ward at 7am to prepare for an 8am ward-round and the earliest she gets away is about 6pm, though the norm is about 9.30pm. She gets something like 20 minutes for lunch. She's reckoned she is working around 20 hours+ overtime a week, although she does not get paid for overtime. When she works weekends, she is working 12 days in a run without a break (5 weekdays, the weekend and another 5 weekdays) and all averaging 13-hour shifts. The pay compared with other non-medical graduates' starting pay is not fanstastic, but comparable, except other graduates are not working 20 hours' overtime and get to experience a lot of spare time. By the time Kay walks home at 9.30pm and grabs a meal, it's time to fall into bed and start the process all over again the next day. By the time she's paid off six years' student loans and accommodation, it doesn't leave much in her bank account.
Now, don't get me wrong, she loves the job and is still in that phase of excitement that she is doing the job of her dreams. Her fellow junior doctors are the same. They wouldn't dream of walking out on a patient because the deadline of 5pm has come. They stay longer, and much longer again, out of the goodness of their hearts to wait for the results of an urgent blood test, speak to a patient's family , or prescribe an urgent drug. However there is love for the job and then there is being treated like a doormat. The Health Secretary wants to reduce their pay and extend their hours even further. He clearly thinks they are currently only working to contracted hours (which they aren't) and should work longer (which they're already doing). All for less pay. Meanwhile some MPs are campaigning that MPs should work shorter hours so they can see more of their families and get a 10% pay-rise. What an amazing juxtaposition! No wonder then that the junior doctors are set to protest about their conditions. The point is also not that these poor young doctors should have fat wallets and (God forbid) some life outside work, but that an exhausted doctor does not make a good doctor and could make life-threatening mistakes. Would you want your sick relative to be treated by a doctor who is barely awake?
How pertinent that the hospital my friend and I attended yesterday is already geographically in the face-off with the government.