I sat down last night to watch the new BBC documentary ‘Hospital’ purely because I thought I would find it interesting, and it would give me a small insight into hospital life. However, it did much more than that, it confirmed the research and evidence I had heard in the news, and put into perspective the harsh realities of medicine.

Without going into too much detail, as I will leave a link to the first part of the series below, it is based at the Queen Mary hospital in London – one of the five affiliated to Imperial College London. The hour orientated primarily around two cancer patients who both required operations and a lady who had ruptured her aorta, travelling to the hospital from Norwich. Although, the main focus of the documentary was the chronic bed shortage the hospital was experiencing, a ‘code red’.

It became increasingly apparent to me that the wait to know if either of the cancer operations would be allowed to go ahead, was entirely due to the uncertainty of a bed being available for them to recover in. A seeming waste of anaesthetists, surgeons, nurses and theatres, all unused due to the bed shortage. Many scheduled operations had to be cancelled due to the hospital not knowing how many trauma patients would need ICU beds, as the brutality of the fact that doing the best for the hospital was not the best for every patient was clear. For instance, one of the cancer patients with oesophagus cancer, had already had his operation cancelled previously for the same reason, and it was cancelled again on the Monday of this week, but in doing so a bed was freed for the lady with the ruptured aorta. While luckily the operation was able to take place on the Tuesday, the prospects of having to operate in a specific window after chemotherapy for the best results, and the reoccured cancellation was obviously a serous worry for the patient.

This leads on to not only the medical issues caused by the bed shortage, such as the cancellation of operations, but moral implications. Patients need to retain their dignity in hospitals, and have enough privacy while recovering, but when operating at or over full capacity, this is hardly possible. The hours the surgeons spent presenting their cases for why their patient needed their operation and a bed were endless, while irritating for the surgeons themselves, this clearly showed that their patients were at the forefront of their mind, and they were their priority – restoring my hope and faith in the hospital environment.

So what did I learn from this documentary? What I expected to be some interesting cases and miraculous recoveries turned out to be a stark reminder of the harshness of medicine. It supported what I had previously heard about hospitals being overrun, but also the obvious desire of medical professionals to do what is right by their patients. It showed that tough decisions are having to be made everyday, and none of which are easy when they can influence peoples lives so dramatically.


This is the documentary link – it was a really insightful watch and I would definitely recommend it as an eye-opener.

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