Bulletin 122, July 2020

From the Editor, Dr Helgi Johannsson

Welcome to the summer edition of the Bulletin, and it is my sincere hope that by the time you read this I’ll be on my summer holiday, and that my flight booking won’t have been cancelled. Who knows? Maybe we will be in our back gardens, or worse still back on our full shift systems dealing with a second peak of the pandemic. 

As I write this, the UK is slowly, gingerly, coming out of lockdown, and I’ve just finished my last night shift on the full-shift system we set up to deal with the pandemic. Anaesthetists and intensive care doctors have been at the forefront of treating patients with COVID-19, while still keeping the NHS emergency service going for non-COVID related cases. I am proud of my profession, and how we stepped up without fuss, increased the capacity for intensive care nationwide by an order of magnitude, and delivered excellent care to some extremely unwell patients in very difficult circumstances. 

In this edition, Dr Chris Carey writes about the effect on consultants going back to full shift work: the frustrations, increased uncertainty in our work, but also the improved supervision, teamwork, a flatter hierarchy, and the faster development of new pathways. From my own experience I would echo his comments, and add how antiquated a technology the bleep system most hospitals still use is. 

I urge you all to read Daniel Barling’s account of how a 27-year-old healthy man suddenly develops symptoms of a stroke, and how as a doctor he instantly knew exactly what was going on, but still had to struggle to get the care he knew he needed. 

At a time when many of us have experienced some truly horrific things, it is incredibly important to focus on the wellbeing of our colleagues and ourselves – whether that be with chocolate (but not doughnuts, I’m sure), walking up stairs, or improving our sleep hygiene, we have several articles for your perusal. 

We realise that in many hospitals the SAS grade doctors provide much of the day to day (and night to night) care, and I want to highlight the excellent work that our SAS representatives on council Kirstin May and Lucy Williams have done over the last few years, and hopefully for some time to come. Dr May’s article on the job application process and getting shortlisted contains some excellent advice for doctors of all grades. 

Finally, the reason we do the job we do is for our patients and it is vital we see what we do from a different perspective sometimes. Our lay representative Lynne Smith provides this perspective and although I’ve always found the profuse expressions of gratitude uncomfortable, thinking of what we have been through in the last couple of months they are very welcome. As we take off our plague masks and try to get back to something vaguely approaching normal we accept the expressions of thanks, but they must never be platitudes, and never divert attention from our goal of a fair, equitable, and excellent National Health Service.