”If you haven’t caught the fly-on-the-wall series yet, it’s pretty essential viewing in this uncertain time for the NHS. Each week, camera crews follow young men and women at the beginning of their careers as they try their best to navigate the stressful world of a busy hospital. This week, we’re with Neeta, who has just been indoctrinated as a registrar, and Fahim, a third-year junior doctor.”
“I actually like the sound of crying children!” Neeta laughs when we question her about the noise. “It’s the ones that don’t cry that worry me. If your child is making a noise, I’m happy.”
Neeta is at the senior end of the junior doctor cycle. She has just become a registrar and, when she’s on shift, is in charge of the entire paediatric team. Sure, there are consultants above her but, essentially, she is the touchpoint. She is the person that junior junior doctors are meant to come to when they don’t know what to do, in order to make sure the children that come to them leave happy and healthy. How’s that for a big job?
“I don’t envy the bed managers’ jobs at all,” she says. “It’s a horrible place to be… I just make the decision about whether the child needs to stay in or not. The fact that I didn’t have enough beds in this case was a factor, but not the rationale for sending children home.”
Because the elephant in the room is, of course, the struggling NHS. The paediatric unit in Northampton hasn’t upped its bed count in 20 years. Funding is getting tighter. Activist group Patients4NHS claims that, taking inflation into account, annual spending on the NHS has only been increasing by 0.9% in recent years, compared to the 3.7% it has been used to. Waiting lists are at their longest since 2007, and there’ve even been reports of hospitals “temporarily closing their doors owing to extreme pressure on beds and staff.” At the moment, 24 A&E units are under threat of closure or downgrading.
“It saddens me what’s happened and what’s happening,” she continues. “When I was very, very junior it was probably the end of a very different time in the NHS, when funding wasn’t as much as an issue and we were a stable unit. Now things have become a little rocky. Our boat is being rocked and with all the cuts it feels like we’re being chipped away at, and they’ve chipped so far that the core is being affected. That saddens and worries me immensely.”
GW: Here we have two highly motivated and intelligent people dedicated to being the very best doctors they can be, pushed to the very edge by a system at breaking point, running to emergencies when the bleeper goes off, one of them admitting he was so exhausted at the end of a shift he couldn’t think clearly, struggling with rota gaps – and Jeremy Hunt – a supercilious ToriCon prat with an empathy deficit – is Sec of State for Health running the whole thing into the ground! Unbelievable! Our NHS is a single shining light in the darkness of our lives at the moment.