I came home tonight and Jill was watching the Channel 4 show 24 hours in A & E which I was aware of but had never watched. It’s not because I’m not interested, more that I’m a bit squeamish and struggle with both the gore and with the emotion of it all so I disappeared through here to my office. It’s why I sincerely take off my proverbial hat to those who work there.
Of all the professions involved in the emergency services those who work in the Accident and Emergency departments – and their colleagues in the Paramedics – do an amazing and largely unnoticed job. We all see Doctors and Nurses in our own lives and when visiting relatives in hospital, but those at the sharp end are continually facing the worst imaginable situations. The opening issue tonight was a twelve year old girl who had been hit by a car and then run over by a bus. The accident itself is horrendous never min all those people who are involved in dealing with it. I couldn’t watch – but I’ll ask Jill later what happened.
It’s the one job I could never even begin to imagine myself doing. That coal face of the NHS is one that politicians play around with constantly and unlike other sections of the civil service and emergency services they never moan about the job. We chronically underpay all those involved in the running of these departments and successive governments have shut A & E departments across the UK. And it shows – this year waiting lists in hospital A&E departments have reached a nine year high. The constant chipping away and “savings” made in the NHS appear to be constantly effecting these front line services.
It’s the people that get me most though; the professionals who have trained and are now serving us the public and ensuring we get the best they can offer. Yes you will hear the odd horror story but that’s true of every business or service as they can never be 100% perfect because of that human aspect, but the doctors, nurses and support staff in the Casualty department are facing the most difficult decisions, emotions, injuries and the real life and death moments hour after hour. We don’t give these people the respect they deserve, or the pay, or the working conditions, or the support, or even the thanks from the public. While consultants get the headline grabbing moments and the doctors take the credit for sending the patients home “cured” often it begins with these people and a phone call that drives them to the limits of inner strength a human has to deal with.
I’m aware of the dark humour many in this position use and the thickening of their skin to the sights, but their hearts are strong too facing things that we hope we never have to. So Mr Cameron and all those who follow in his footsteps, it’s time to recognise the work these men and women do both in terms of financial reward and of job security. All major hospitals need an A&E – it’s not an option to have one in a region and expect them to deal with everything . Neither is it something that we should put people off visiting by using scare stories about “wasting the time” of these resources, if people need immediate help they should be able to receive it on a needs basis and nothing more.
When the NHS was set up it was there for those who needed it regardless of background, a place where everyone could seek help. Now we need to ensure the support, resources and security for those who work in that sector as a thank you for over seventy years of service to this country.