Kate Chisholm

Death watch | 14 April 2016

Plus: Timothy Garton Ash comes out fighting for free speech on Radio 4

All this week Radio Five Live has been giving us an insight into what it is like not just to confront death every day but also to know that a minor error on your part might end a person’s life. In Junior Doctors’ Diaries on Sunday night, Habiba, Andrew and Jeremy took us inside their daily round, followed by updates throughout the week on Phil Williams’s night-time show. It’s been a timely reminder (politically motivated or not) of how much we need good doctors, and how sad it is that so many of them have felt driven to go on strike. Sad because it’s actually a reflection of how undervalued they have become, and of how little we understand about what they do. Indeed, Habiba, a paediatrics specialist, told us she had been upset by some parents who, ‘rightly frustrated’ that their child was not improving as quickly as they had hoped, had questioned her experience. ‘It’s hard,’ she said, bleakly, before reassuring us that she loves her job and would do nothing else.

Andrew, meanwhile, was driving home at 9.07 a.m. after a weekend on call at a hospital in Suffolk. The hospital was absolutely full, he told us, just one or two empty beds, and some of his colleagues were making ‘awful and morbid comments about how people passing away frees up a bed’. He added, despairingly, ‘That’s the point we’ve got to.’

In Gwent Jeremy recorded his thoughts at two in the morning after spending two hours in theatre operating on a woman who was suffering from a hernia that was stuck. He was thirsty and tired, but there was now a new urgent patient waiting for him in A&E, who needed to go straight into theatre with a twisted testicle.

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