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4 July 2013
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Beneath the headlines

I was having dinner with a good friend yesterday who works as a doctor in a particularly challenged hospital. I’ve known him since I was a houseman and although we’ve taken different career paths we’ve been able to share many stories of highs and lows which have resonated with both of us irrespective of speciality. I know from personal experience that he is a compassionate and diligent clinician as well as being a loyal and proud family man.

Throughout the meal, we were chatting about the current situation both in his hospital and in the wider world. I’m never a fan of talking shop in social settings but we couldn’t help air our views on healthcare politics, undergraduate education, regulators and other similar topics. It seemed impolite not to wander over to the pub afterwards for a responsibly-drunk pint of real ale before heading home.

At the bar, two guys were talking fairly loudly about one of them having recently had an operation. It didn’t take long for most of the pub to be aware that this had been a hernia repair. He’d only been in for a day, had been off work for a week and had been able to go right back to his job after that. His mate was berating him for such a rapid return to paid employment when the opportunity had been there to extend the convalescence and enjoy life at a more leisurely pace, but the other chap was evidently an enthusiast for honest toil.

In a comedy moment, hernia man turned around with his new round of drinks on a tray to face my friend who was standing beside me. Instant recognition ensued, as it became immediately clear that that particular hernia had been put back in its place by my drinking partner, and patient and doctor were now standing face to face in the pub.

“Gary!” began the guy. “Gary, this is the doctor who fixed my hernia. Doctor, this is Gary….if you ever want anything fixing Gary, this is the man….this is the man….” And with that, he slapped my friend on the back and went off to sit down with the rather startled Gary.

Just then my friend’s mobile phone went off. It was his wife reminding him that he had said he would be back twenty minutes earlier, and had he forgotten he was meant to be fixing the shower rail before he went to bed! With apologies he finished his pint and went off to the taxi rank outside. I took a few more minutes to finish my own drink then left myself, noticing that Gary was now showing his mate the scar.

On the seat next to me on the bus was a crumpled copy of that morning’s free paper, the crisis at my friend’s hospital emblazoned across its banner top.

But there are compassionate, diligent, loyal and proud people beneath the headlines.

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About the author

Darren Kilroy's picture

Darren Kilroy

Darren Kilroy FCEM M.Ed. Ph.D. is a Consultant in Emergency Medicine in Cheshire, and Director for Network Leadership and Development in Unscheduled Care. He is also Hon. Senior Lecturer in Emergency Care at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Clinical Lead for Unscheduled Care at NHS Stockport. His main areas of interest are the challenges of clinical and managerial engagement around emergent clinical commissioning models, and the role of clinical leadership within transformational change.


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