What I learnt this week: How the #NHS spirit “pulls through” #WILTW

This is the 82nd #WILTW

Hugh Pym, the BBC’s Health editor, wrote this week on “The NHS in Winter – an alphabet soup of stats” . The article explores the reasons behind publishing the national Accident & Emergency 4 hour target results monthly instead of weekly. There are pragmatic, and cynical, explanations with incongruous data on waiting times rates only confusing the current picture. What caught my attention was the penultimate paragraph

“..Twas ever thus and the NHS has got through previous winters despite forecasts of doom and gloom..”

It is a potentially dangerous precedent to rely on the fact that we’ve done it before so we will do it again. Conversely it is testament to the hard work and perseverance of NHS staff that despite steadily increasing demand the whole system hasn’t completely collapsed. There is a point where it becomes too easy to eulogise about the ‘spirit’ of the NHS; as if it is just the dedication of staff that keeps the whole thing afloat. I’d argue though there is sense of fraternity, especially in acute and emergency specialities, that is synergistic in bringing the best out of people.


This was clearly apparent at our Emergency Department Christmas party. The event itself probably no different than any of the other festive events occurring up and down the country. But there was a spirit that was weaving its way through everyone there.

It is the spirit which provides energy through a simple knowing look when the queue of patients to be triaged doubles. It is the spirit that provides resolve when a doctor and nurse go together to break bad news. It is the spirit that acknowledges gallows humour, not as demeaning to patients, but as a way to deal with the shared pain of some of life’s tragedies. It is a spirit that says, “I’ve got your back, because you’ve got mine.”

I’m not sure how long the NHS spirit will keep us afloat. But for the moment it is very much alive and kicking.

What have you learnt this week? #WILTW

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