• May A

NHS Diaries: It Only Took a Pandemic For Them To Notice Us

Week Commencing 23/03/2020

This blog post has been a very emotional one for me to write.

In my online presence, I do not speak of my profession or career almost at all. The reason being is that I hold it very dear to my heart. The other is that one of the things I despise the most in life since childhood is arrogance and people who blow their own horn.

The reason why my online presence has been slowly fading is that I am part of the frontline NHS staff. Myself and my colleagues in my profession are an integral part of the NHS and the public do not even know what we do. In fact, we as a profession were humiliated a few weeks before the pandemic in front of millions of UK residents on Good Morning Britain; we were shamefully named ‘pretend doctors’. Many of my colleagues cried when they heard that, but I just laughed and called the journalist illiterate – because he is.

For anyone reading this, please note that I can only speak for hospital pharmacists, because quite frankly I only superficially know what other pharmacists do – particularly the ones you may have come across in pharmacies on the high streets.

Moving on, if we are pretend doctors and all we do is pop pills and count them, why then are we frontline staff? Why have the rules of lock-down not applied to us? That is right, because we are critical to your safety. And I will tell you exactly why we are critical to your safety during your (or your mom's, dad's or grandpa/grandma's) hospital stay and give you exact examples of what I personally have done (from what I can remember) only in the past few days.

If we are pretend doctors and all we do is pop pills and count them, why then are we frontline staff?

Example one: a patient with poorly controlled epilepsy was prescribed an antibiotic that would likely make them have more seizures (fits). I stopped this from happening, though I received the wrath of the consultant looking after the patient at the time. He did not think it was a great concern and was adamant on prescribing this for the patient. It would have been easy for me to let it go. And indeed, I have heard patients unknowingly say to me ‘stop interfering with the doctor’s job’, completely oblivious that it is my job keeping them safe. I took it upon myself to contact the microbiologist who completely agreed with me and revealed to me the other available antibiotics that the patient is sensitive to. After telling the consultant what the microbiologist said, he could not disagree any longer.

It is IMPORTANT to note that the consultant is ABSOLUTELY LOVELY - he only wanted the patient to be discharged as soon as possible but was not thinking about the long-term consequences of his decisions because he was incredibly stressed.

Example two: a patient who had a lot of pain and was fighting a chest infection got suddenly prescribed a high dose of an opiate for pain relief. The patient’s lungs were already struggling to function because of the infection. I knew that whacking the patient suddenly with a high dose of opiates when they never had it before will almost certainly make their lung function even worse and the consequences could be deadly. I stopped the patient from receiving this and asked the doctors to prescribe a safer alternative.

Dear reader, these are simple interventions of our daily lives. We are not going above and beyond; this is our job – our knowledge of your disease state(s) and knowledge of your medications make us an integral part of your treatment. You just do not know that we are doing it. You do not know how we have intervened to save your life and/or reduce your days in hospital.

Much like a film editor behind the movie you watch in the cinema, we work behind the scenes. We are not looking for glory, we are not looking to be on the headlines. We just do not want people to insult our intelligence and our hard work. It takes our youth, courage and a great amount of knowledge to do what we do.

I have been working 10-12 hours back to back shifts without even taking a 10 minute break to make sure you are safe. I am EXHAUSTED, I am risking my health and wellbeing for you. I am PETRIFIED that I will fall ill with the virus and leave my team even more short staffed which will directly affect YOUR health.  

So please, if you are not willing to educate yourself as to who we are and what we do, the least you can do is …..... respect us.

And more importantly, in this pandemic - stay at home.

If you want me to write about how our work has changed because of the pandemic, let me know and I will do my best to keep you all updated.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues for working so hard: pharmacists, technicians, assistants, nurses, dentists, healthcare assistants, microbiologists, lab assistants, doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians, speech and language therapists, ward managers, ward clerks, baristas, cleaners, tea ladies. I am so grateful for your big and little acts of heroism.

Much love.