‘Hospital’ – BBC 2 Documentary Episode 3

Today’s episode was a fascinating insight into Charing Cross Hospital’s Neurosurgery department including some clips from inside the operating theatre, as well as interviews with patients, their families and a consultant about his view of the NHS’ waiting time problems and whether outsourcing should be used for more patients. During this episode, it was estimated that there are 10,000 neurological surgeries per year – this figure is particularly high at Charing Cross hospital due to its impeccable reputation and high success rates.

The majority of the program was centered around the fight between consultants and doctors for the highly sought after intensive care beds (IC) beds which are used for patients after a major operation, patients with major trauma and at least one must be left in case of the arrival of an emergency patient. The fight for beds in this episode was shown by the waiting times for planned neurosurgical operations which were all around nine months. This is absolutely unacceptable as seeing similar specialists in Germany is said take only “two to three weeks”.

I often find when watching Hospital that I feel stressed and bothered by the content due to the extensive waiting times and the extremely large-scale organisation and planning that has to be done by consultants and doctors. I feel that this is cleverly shown by the producers of Hospital in order to make you gain an understanding of how healthcare professionals are feeling working for our NHS. Every person in the United Kingdom should be watching Hospital in order to get a taster of how our doctors are feeling in our current overstretched NHS system so that the population can unite to bring about change.

In this episode I was particularly unnerved when brain surgeon Kevin O’Neill made tough decisions about whether to consider operating on his next patient later that day whilst operating on a brain with multiple aneurisms. He spoke of his wasting of time “chasing, phoning and waiting” to be given permission to start his operations when he should not have to worry about beds, and should be able to spend his time operating on more patients. I noticed in one particular instance there was (once again – like in episode 2) an incident where there was no ward bed available for a person coming out of intensive care as there was a problem with discharging the patient. This has a knock-on effect throughout the hospital as consultants cannot start their operations until there are intensive care beds available for post-operation.

Throughout the meetings of the consultants with the organised administration staff, consultants were constantly stressing the importance of remembering that every operation must never be treated as a number (which is sometimes hard for people to understand due to the enormous number of patients) but must be treated as a patient in every individual case. This is one of the most influential reasons that consultant Kevin O’Neill does not support outsourcing to private hospitals. He stressed the importance of continuity of healthcare professionals throughout a patient’s medical journey as the patient and their doctor form a relationship which in turn helps to maintain standard of care. I believe that once patients are seen and have operations they are treated correctly and with respect throughout their procedure and during their recovery period, however, as one patient said “the bit before that is a disaster, an absolute disaster”. He had been waiting for his operation for nine months.

The part of this weeks episode that interested me the most was the showing of non-invasive ultrasound brain surgery. [I read about something similar in last week’s New Scientist (14/1/17) about transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to treat tinnitus, depression and strokes.] This newly found ultrasound surgery was shown to treat a problem deep in the brain causing constant shaking (tremor) of the arm. I hope to find out more about this surgery as I believe that this is the key to future operations, saving doctors time, equipment and beds, allowing more patients to be saved in a far shorter amount of time.


Emily Buchanan

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