07 October 2015

A good place to get sick?

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.


Sarah said...

I totally agree. I have a daughter just started out on the doctor route. Having jumped through every hoop under the sun, she faces a long and expensive training with the prospect of terribly long hours and not a great salary at the end of it. It's no wonder that many now go abroad. I seriously fear for the future of the NHS. Both doctors and nurses should be valued appropriately.


Working Mum said...

I agree. I have a friend who is a GP and is not returning to work after having children because she doesn't want the increased working hours and doesn't want to work weekends. I have another friend who is a consultant who has increased his hours in a private hospital to reduce his hours in the NHS, if he continues, he will only do private work. How many more doctors are we going to lose?

Flowerpot said...

There's a lot of pressure on GPs at the moment isn;t there? And they do work so hard.....

nappy valley girl said...

I had both my children in "that" hospital - and yes, the view is stunning, although I can't say I appreciated it at all in my postnatal fog.

The government is being very foolish with all their attacks on doctors. Not a good idea to antagonise a profession where people already work harder than most of their professional peers for less money - we will see even less people go into medicine and cause even more problems for the NHS. We have a very rude name for Jeremy Hunt in this household....

Kit Torrance said...

I hear your comment loud and clear!

Myself and the other qualified nurses on my ward work overtime every day. We have to. We are supposed to have a 20 minute break for lunch, but not one of us has time for that.

Each shift, we have 2 qualifieds and 4 or 5 support workers. The nurse in charge of the shift stays in the office as much as possible, answering phones and making arrangements for patients to leave the ward, new admissions etc. The other qualified does medication rounds, ward rounds, meetings and anything else that crops up.

We do not stop.

Any paperwork that does not get completed through the shift still has to be completed. Hence the unpaid overtime.

It sucks.

But how else can we do the job?

As your daughter so rightly proves, we cannot leave a patient in the middle of something just because it's home time. If shit happens, we remain... and then we have to document everything.

It's a wonder those of us who work within the NHS are sane!

Rab said...

Its a worry the hours our health workers put in each week because it will catch up with them. Its saddening. And it annoys me how little importance is placed on sector by those in power- given the choice I think we could continue without a government as opposed to a health service. I can imagine many bright young energetic people start to burn out over time with strain of demand. Sad.

Love the photos.

All the best,