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The brave A&E consultant who dared to tell the truth about a crisis in the NHS

Thursday, 08 January 2015 2 Comments by Claire

Congratulations to Dr Rob Galloway, who was so incensed by the Prime Minister’s suggestion that hospitals were just “busy” when there is a real crisis, that he wrote a furious and stingingly articulate letter.

Mr Cameron and his pals have been given a cold hard dose of reality and truth - from someone they cannot argue with. I don’t think anyone could have said it better.

The Health and Social Care Act has fragmented the NHS so monumentally that it is extremely hard to navigate. The private sector has been ushered in through the back door, while politicians such as Mr Cameron and Mr Hunt pretend that they actually give a fig about patient care.

As I see it, the NHS is one of the government’s core responsibilities, but senior Tories have previously gone on record indicating that they would be happy to see it privatised.  A system which works for the richest and abandons the poorest is not a system which an enlightened and civilised country should be aspiring towards.

Instead of ploughing funding into a cash-strapped health service, the government instead spent BILLIONS of pounds on massive reorganisation - which Mr Cameron promised he wouldn’t do!

Having spent the best part of 10 years working in the NHS I know just how hard it is for employees to speak out. There is an ever present threat of government ministers coming down on “noisy” health trusts like a ton of bricks.

Staff are expected to toe the line and express any concerns privately… that is why it is all the more impressive that Dr Galloway has had the guts to air his views in this way.

No wonder people don’t trust politicians.

This is Dr Galloway’s letter extracted from the Daily Mail story -

Dear Mr Cameron and Mr Hunt

As someone who works in A&E, I hear with interest that you have said that things in A&E are just busy and we are preforming well and not in a crisis.

I though, would disagree. Maybe it is just your sense of reality, which has made you say this or perhaps a lack of comprehension of the words busy V crisis.

Is it not a crisis that up and down the country thousands and thousands of patients are being looked after in corridors because there are no free cubicles for them to be seen in?

Is it not a crisis that many hospitals are declaring major incidents (to just cope with normal winter pressures) and some are having tents built in their car parks?

Is it not a crisis that patients who need discharging from the hospital can’t because social services can’t cope with demand? This means there are no free beds for the patients to go to and so they stay in A&E for hours upon hours.

Is it not a crisis when thousands of patients are having their operations cancelled because there are no beds for them to get into?

Is it not a crisis when every department in the county cannot recruit A&E doctors and nurses because they are emigrating or changing specialty because of the relentless pressure?

Is it not a crisis when everyday A&E staff up and down the country thinks it is a good shift, if we get a cup of tea, no member of staff is in tears and no one dies in the corridor on our watch? (As opposed to deliver the standard and dignity of care we wish)

Or are you saying it is not a crisis because you don’t want to admit the real problem and are a tad embarrassed by your mistakes.

Because when you came to power you promised to invest in the NHS and not re-organise it. But actually you lied.

Health and social care are inextricably linked and you stripped money away from social care whilst still finding the money for tax cuts for millionaires.

But worse still, instead of trying to modernise and improve the NHS (which it needs) and working to prevent an absolutely predictable crisis, you spent the time and billions of wasted pounds on an ideological drive to increase the role of the private sector into the NHS, which has just put profits before patients.

The reality is that the crisis (yes it is a crisis not just busy) in the NHS, is shown up in the corridors of the A&E departments.

And if you don’t believe me, please join any of the thousand of A&E staff up and down the country whom are all going through the same problems.

Then reality might kick in; seeing people in their 90s lying in a corridor as there is no bed to go to, patients who need to go to intensive care staying for hours upon hours in A&E whilst their condition deteriorates, ambulance staff not being able to get to 999 calls as they are waiting to get their current patients into A&E, nurses not having time to care for patients – just provide treatment, and for the consultants on the shop floor trying to create order and safety in a chaotic environment.

It must be quite easy going on Question Time and the like, debating fellow politicians and public figures who everyone knows have their own agenda. But the shop floor workers in the NHS have only one agenda – our patient care; so the debate may not be so easy with us. I would love to debate with you about the NHS crisis and offer some solutions. Are you up for it?

We are so lucky to have the training and skills to do the jobs we do – but we just need you to make it possible for us to perform the job we love to appropriate standards.
It may be hard for all of us who work in A&E, but it is nothing compared to what our patients have to endure.

But amazingly it is them that keep us going - with humour, good will and not complaining about us despite everything going on, along with a diabetic inducing amount of chocolate being bought for us
Mr Hunt and Cameron – I also want to ask you why you think we are performing well?

You say it is because around 85-95 per cent of patients get seen and discharged or admitted with 4 hours (still the worst figures since we started recording this data).

But that hides the reality. It is easy to boost this percentage with easy patients with cuts and colds and minor injuries – but what about the care for the patients who are genuinely sick - the ones who need admission.

How quickly do they get seen and admitted? That is the figure that should be made available but isn’t.

I don’t know what the numbers are, but from recent experience from up and down the country, I doubt that at the moment half of patients who get admitted do so within 4 hours from when they arrive; remember delayed admission leads to worse outcomes.
Please start releasing this important figure as it will give a much better barometer for how the NHS is doing.

So Mr Hunt and Mr Cameron – come down to any A&E and see the crisis/’just busy’ and when you do so, listen to the staff who can explain what needs to be done as opposed to listen to your political advisors.

In A&Es throughout the country, we are buckling under the strain and it is only because of everyone’s hard works and dedication that patient care is being maintained to the extent it is and morale hasn’t yet cracked.

It feels that we in the NHS (from porters, to managers, to nurses, to support staff, to paramedics, to hospitals doctor and GPs) are lions being led by donkeys

It feels that we in the NHS (from porters, to managers, to nurses, to support staff, to paramedics, to hospitals doctor and GPs) are lions being led by donkeys. We are facing 1930’s public sector cuts driven by politicians with the mentality of world war one generals.

So in summary - please Cameron and Hunt, stop thinking about your political ideology and start thinking about our patients.

Remember the NHS was set up after world war two during a period of unprecedented austerity – stop destroying it under the name of austerity.
Rob Galloway (A&E Consultant)

P.S. it must be quite easy going on Question Time and the like, debating fellow politicians and public figures who everyone knows have their own agenda.

But the shop floor workers in the NHS have only one agenda – our patient care; so the debate may not be so easy with us.

I would love to debate with you about the NHS crisis and offer some solutions. Are you up for it?

Here’s the full story -


1. At 10:48 pm on 09th Jan Joan Kelly wrote:

While I applaud Mr Galloway for speaking out the real problems are not with Mr Cameron, or Mr Hunt, but with Labour who allowed GPs to do just what they like when they gave them the new contracts.
Patients are having to wait days and even weeks to see their GP s because they can’t get appointments when they are actually ill. As for a GP visiting you at home forget it as it will never happen. Weekends are the worst when GPs aren’t even available, so what do people do, go to A & E of course hence the so called crisis.
As for the 111 service it’s a joke. If you can actually get through to them then you are speaking to somebody who hasn’t a clue what to advise. Having used this service after passing out in a neighbour’s house I was told to go to a walk in centre in Tiverton, how I was supposed to get there on a Sunday evening I haven’t a clue especially as I don’t drive. Needless to say I didn’t bother going anywhere. 
On another occasion I was advised to attend the R D & E again on a Sunday evening and was left on a trolley without seeing a soul. In the end I decided to go home and on leaving the department saw a number of nurses and Doctors sitting around chatting about their previous night’s fun. I won’t bore you with details, but I don’t think it needs explaining. I did report this to Mr Swire who contacted Mr Hunt and I had a letter back from Mr Hunt saying the treatment I had received was nothing short of abysmal. 
It would appear that you get a better service and treatment from your local vet than you do from the NHS.
The only answer to the problems within the NHS is to return to the old system where GPs were responsible for their patients and discipline is restored in hospitals.

2. At 11:22 am on 10th Jan Sandra Semple wrote:

I agree with Joan about GPs.  They were offered “golden” new contracts: basically, Monday to Friday 9-5 at highly inflated salaries and, of course, they jumped at them.  The number of GPs who suddenly bought luxury cars or “Chelsea tractors” zoomed up!  They did not need to provide evening and weekend cover for their patients, only to ensure it was “available” with no quantification of what that meant in practice,  which leads to the ridiculous situation of a few highly-paid locums or GPs on call for the whole of Devon.

As regards A and E I am more sympathetic to the doctors and nurses.  Whilst it may seem deplorable to hear them talking about their lives outside, this is what we all do in our working spaces and it can be an antidote to the stressful situations they are experiencing and they need these “bonding breaks” to keep teamwork going.  It is hard to deal with a system where almost everyone feels that they should have priority, where some people are at A and E who should not be there but have nowhere else to go, and I don’t envy them the decisions they have to make about who to treat first.

We have an ageing population, reduced-to-the-bone social services and the requirement for hospitals to make a profit in these circumstances.  Something has to give.  To my mind it has to be postponement or cancellation of projects such as HS2 so that money can be diverted to this crisis.  It may also mean (and this is unfashionable) an increase in taxation.  Best of all, divert ALL those bankers bonuses into the NHS and cut fat-cat salaries over £150,000 by 20% immediately.  This is a national emergency and needs sorting NOW.

The NHS was founded in the years of austerity after WW2 - it can find its feet again in these current times of austerity.  But it needs radical re-thinking which none of the major parties (including UKIP) are capable of.  The best we can hope for is Independent voices fighting the corners of their own localities without the millstone of party-politics.

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