When I retired from the NHS having worked at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup for 28 years it was with some bitterness. During the last two years the hospital had been threatened with a merger and the likelihood of losing its A&E and maternity departments. I was quite sure that the merger would not solve the financial problems it was supposed to, and said so in fairly forthright terms, but was ignored. Thereafter I was threatened with disciplinary action for speaking out, and had to deal with several mischievous attempts to interfere with my clinical practice and make my working life difficult. Despite having workload figures far in excess of any of my colleagues in the merged Trust I was told, under the counter, that I was about to be investigated for cutting sessions. Being 60 enough was enough. In one way life was great, but I could not help feeling that my retirement was engineered. Within six months of mt leaving my rehabilitation unit had been closed, and my sessions in the rheumatology department remained covered by locums for over three years. So much for any legacy.
As I had predicted the new merged Trust fell to pieces – for exactly the reasons I had stated. So schadenfreude was the order of the day,, but I failed to get the General Medical Council to deal with one medical manager whose conduct I felt had breached professional guidelines. I also expected Queen Mary’s, now bereft of acute services, to curl up and die.
My pessimism was misplaced. Although the hospital is managed by one Trust and has clinical services from another two, in bits, there has been what appears to be a successful and remarkable transformation. My previous experience of acute hospitals losing their acute services was dire, with almost inevitable closure. But somehow Queen Mary’s has reinvented itself – admittedly with the help of £30m in investment, but it now possesses a large renal dialysis unit, and spanking new and completely up to date Cancer Centre, new outpatient facilities, a splendidly redesigned front entrance, and it looks set for a long future. More to the point the staff that I left demoralised appear to have been re-energised, and when I returned for the celebrations to re-dedicate the hospital, and also its 100 years of existence, I came home feeling that my negative attitude was now quite unnecessary; the hospital had moved on, and so would I. It was a great pleasure to meet up with the various dinosaurs of my era and agree that everything looked pretty good.
That’s not to say that one should forget the past; there are lessons to be learned, not least in how to do things so as not to upset and irritate people, as I have described in previous essays. It has perhaps also helped that after 25 years of trying my book “Faces from the Front” has finally come to fruition! You can find details at http://blog.helion.co.uk/tag/faces-from-the-front/. (A great gift for anyone with an interest in plastic surgery, the First World War, facial injury etc).
So time has passed and healing has occurred. Nonetheless I am reminded of a poem I wrote that relates to experience:
When appointed consultants, we all seemed quite young –
Looked up to our elders and betters;
But time passes by, and we cease to give tongue
Or write all those Young Turk-like letters.
And then we all find that the new ones around
Are the ones now creating the fuss –
For they carry the torch of the bright and the bold
And the elders and betters are us.