Saturday, 15 March 2014

Warning: Legality could be injurious to health

This particular blog post is fictional. Any resemblances to any person living or dead or incidents current or historical are purely coincidental.

Warning: Legality could be injurious to health

It was the saddest day of his life.

Let us start from the beginning. Bill was a brilliant student at A levels, he was also a stickler for formality, rules and process. This stood him well and he was very highly thought of as a scrupulous, proper, law abiding young man. He went on to study medicine, completed junior general training and got into specialty training – all very smoothly. His specialty also involved working in the operating theatres.

Bill found within a few weeks of into his registrar job that his work never ever finished at 5 pm.  Bill being Bill, thought he will simply leave at 5 pm as long as there was no patient he was directly dealing with was acutely ill. He did that for a week. Bill then found his training was getting adversely affected. Consultant ward rounds continued after 5 pm, if he did not join in he cannot learn. Patients for elective surgery were admitted after 5 pm, if he did not see them he will not be ready for them for the next day. Theatres routinely over ran easily to 7 pm sometimes longer, if he was not there he will lose out on the training.

Bill discussed this with his consultants who looked at him as though he was an alien zombie. When he insisted on resolution they told Bill that he is free to leave at 5 pm if he wished to do so, some of them insisted that he leave at 5 pm so that he did not breach his hours. Bill’s logical argument was very simple, substantial training happened after 5 pm so to take consultants’ advice and leave at 5 pm means that he will never get the training he deserved. So Bill refused to leave on the grounds of training needs and claimed payment for extra time on the basis of actual time spent working at the hospitals. Boy, this was resisted by the management. Bill was born different, his documentation was perfect, they had no choice but to pay him. The managers gave the consultants a hard time because of this issue; the consultants did not take it lightly.

The time came to ‘assess’ and ‘report’ on Bill which were used at annual progress meetings. These used to be called RITAs before now called ARCPs. Bill’s numbers, performance, success rates, patient feedback and anything clinical were spot on average. Bill’s consultant reports were full of masked vitriol on how his attitude, behaviour, cooperation, et al were not compatible with a surgical career. This was pointed out to him and he made tremendous efforts to improve. Every time he was assessed externally he had no issues on any of the ‘soft skills’ assessments. But he would not stop claiming for staying after contracted hours. Every hospital that made him work after 5 pm paid up; the consultants from the hospital wrote badly about his approach to life.

After 6 years of completed training with same average clinical rating as his peer group, Bill was denied his completion of training certificate due to five reports that faulted his attitude. Bill cannot get into the specialist register; Bill cannot be a substantive consultant in the NHS. His colleagues with his level of performance and achievement and some with lesser performance and achievement were signed off.

All because he followed the country’s law and the NHS rules. The message his colleagues got from their seniors was that people who followed the law can be severely, career damagingly punished. The message other trainers and managers got was that they can break the rules and law with impunity and use their power to penalise the person who caught them out. Bill can go to employment tribunals and the like but when he has at least half a dozen consultants who have already written badly and a dozen managers willing to write badly – he faces a lost cause. In a world where the subjective decimates the objective - he is a lost soul.

Has he learned his lessons that legal and rule based behaviour does not win and not submitting to the whims of the powerful was harmful? We do not know yet. This sounds like a case of operation successful, patient died; only here it will be training successful, career died. Bill hit the target, its the ricochet and the debris that maimed him.

Bill is at a crossroad waiting to change careers.

Oh by the way he also happens to belong to a minority ethnic group.
I think this quote from John le Carre (in his book The Constant Gardener) will probably be very appropriate here "Nobody in this story, and no outfit or corporation, thank God, is based upon an actual person or outfit in the real world. But I can tell you this; as my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realize that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard."


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PS: The loose ends such as throwing in the ethnic minority, etc are there to be filled in, if and when I get to write this story in full

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I beg to disagree here. He stayed for his "training needs" NOT for service commitments. I am a trainee who usually overstay at work so can empathise with him. Having said that, so are so many others and they dont bill the hospital...

All in all, this shows a bit of asperger mentality and I would not have been happy to such person to be my colleague. He did not adopt/change in spite of subtle and not so subtle hints and hence in my personal opinion brought it upon himself so no sympathies there.....