May 21, 2022
You can’t fault the former health secretary’s proposals for improving patient care, but his slick prose fails to acknowledge the damage inflicted on the NHS by his party during his tenure as health secretary
On a bitterly cold weekend in October 2015, the views of 20,000 junior doctors, freezing in our scrubs as we marched on Downing Street, were encapsulated in one unforgettable placard. “I may not be a gynaecologist,” it read, “but I know a Hunt when I see one.”
No other health secretary in NHS history has incensed the medical profession quite like its longest serving incumbent. During his six-year tenure from 2012 to 2018, Jeremy Hunt presided over a catastrophic decline in NHS standards, the pain of year-on-year austerity budgets, failed pledges to increase the size of the NHS workforce (those 5,000 extra GPs he vowed to deliver by 2020 shrivelled, in fact, into 1,425 fewer GPs) and, most infamously of all, a series of unprecedented strikes by NHS junior doctors. Continue reading...
Jan 26, 2022
A doctor’s record of facing the onslaught of Covid’s first wave while swamped by private grief
“Giving someone the truth when they don’t want it is a sort of emotional violence,” says Roopa Farooki. “It’s as much an act of aggression as shaking their hands in the Covid era.” She should know. When the pandemic first struck the NHS, the novelist – three times nominated for the Women’s prize for fiction – was also one of its most junior doctors, with barely six months of medicine under her belt.
The act of aggression to which she refers is not, however, pandemic-related. Everything Is True, her blistering new Covid memoir, begins in the wake of her sister’s death from breast cancer. When Farooki breaks down in tears at work on her sister’s birthday, she makes the fatal mistake, on being asked by a colleague if she is all right, of giving “an honest answer, like a psychopath”. Her disarming frankness about her dead sister sees the colleague practically sprinting off down the hospital corridor, leaving Farooki to observe wryly that she might as well have coughed in their face with her “snotty, messy tears”. Continue reading...
Feb 06, 2021
As well as fighting to keep Covid patients alive, NHS staff are now battling a surge in abuse and denial in the second wave. Dr Rachel Clarke on how she is coping – and what gives her hope
Please imagine it, for a moment, if you can bear to. Being wheeled from your home by paramedics in masks who rush you, blue-lit, to a hospital. Then the clamour and lights, the confusion and fear, the faceless professionals, gloved and gowned, who eddy and swirl past your trolley. Your destination is intensive care where too soon, or perhaps not soon enough, you will arrive at a point of reckoning. You will blanch when they tell you, because you’ve watched the news and know what it signifies: you are going to be put on a ventilator. You will understand, as clearly as they do, that your doctors cannot promise to save you.
Here, though, is the detail that haunts me. For every patient who dies from Covid-19 in hospital, from the moment they encounter that first masked paramedic, they will never see a human face again. Not one smile, nor pair of cheeks, nor lips, nor chin. Not a single human being without barricades of plastic. Sometimes, my stomach twists at the thought that to the patients whose faces I can never unsee – contorting and buckling with the effort of breathing – I am no more than a pair of eyes, a thin strip of flesh between mask and visor, a muffled voice that strains and cracks behind plastic. Continue reading...
Sep 09, 2020
In today’s developed world it is possible to live an entire lifetime without ever directly setting eyes on death, which, considering half a million Britons and two and a half million Americans will die every year, is remarkable. Little more than a century ago, this distance from dying was inconceivable. We invariably departed the world […]