I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. Being able to change and save lives on a daily basis - what could be more meaningful?
I started working as a Junior Doctor in 2016. Since I began, I’ve been regularly bowled over by the men and women who work in our health service, the vast majority of whom go above and beyond, day after day, to make a difference to their patients. It’s a privilege and a great source of pride to be part of an institution that delivers world-class surgery, pioneering cancer treatment and leading pharmaceuticals free at the point of care. But this pride is tempered with a painful awareness of the cracks in this most cherished of public services.
Despite the determination of its staff, a shortage of beds, doctors and nurses means the NHS increasingly struggles to function in summer, let alone the dreaded winter. Seasonal pressure on the service, and a particularly virulent strain of flu has tipped us into a full-blown crisis.
As a frontline worker, I am faced by a system that needs to adapt. The medical care we all, quite rightly, expect, is being delivered through archaic infrastructure. Walking through a modern-day NHS ward can sometimes feel like a trip backwards through time.
For example, patients whose operations have been cancelled this month will have been sent a letter in the post, not an email or text.
When you attend hospital for an emergency, you’ll see doctors - in the era of smartphones and artificial intelligence - scribing patient details on pieces of paper.
If your doctor needs to contact a colleague, it will most likely be via a 1960’s style pager and landline.
It doesn’t take a stint at medical school to imagine how much time this wastes on a daily basis. The NHS purchases the vast majority of the world’s pagers, highlighting how few people still use them. All this whilst smartphones sit dormant in pockets, the innovations they offer out of our reach thanks to the slow uptake of new technologies by the healthcare sector. A few small changes in the ways doctors and other clinical staff communicate could save time and potentially lives; waiting patients seen and treated sooner.
My colleagues and I love our jobs, but the environment we work in exhausts us and the absence of the technology we badly need to help us treat our patients is frustrating. We want our health service to survive, and for that reason we need to start seeing ourselves as innovators, not just employees.
Surely, doctors and nurses who live through crises like this one and are exposed to the pressures on hospitals on a daily basis, are best placed to think up solutions to these problems.
Today’s medics are digital natives, comfortable with a wide range of technology and unfamiliar with a paper-based approach to anything. The NHS needs this generation to help it grow and evolve, and cope with an ever-increasing demand or its services.
Perhaps then, more medics need to make their voices heard when it comes to driving innovation in the NHS, and those in power need to be ready to listen to them.
Rhydian is part of the team behindForward, the communications app built by doctors for clinical teams.