Please would you give me a few minutes of your time and read this.
I just wanted to explain how I became a Consultant Vascular and General Surgeon.
I started my training in 1985 and then spent 5 years in Medical School topping up my grant with many extra hours working on part time jobs alongside my medical degree. In addition I paid for an intercalated BSc which was unfunded so that I could make myself more competitive in the long run.
I achieved my FRCS examination and worked clinically as a Senior House Officer. I was appointed as the first female Calman female registrar in Wales in 1996 and then as a research registrar in 1998 to complete a Masters in Surgery. This was, and is, a necessary postgraduate degree to allow an understanding of research and medical literature. During this time I had two children, worked to 36 weeks delivering at 37 and then 39 weeks delivering at 40 weeks. Both times I provided a full service until I went into labour. I returned to work after 12 weeks maternity leave.
I also sat my Final Fellowship examination in 2002 whilst also providing service and being trained in my registrar years. My certificate of completion of training was awarded in 2003 after I demonstrated that I had completed my publications, accredited courses, leadership and management roles, education of more junior trainees and had developed an understanding of the NHS. In addition I had to evidence that I could perform as a Consultant Surgeon as an independent operator as part of the NHS team.
I finally became a substantive Consultant Surgeon in 2007, 16 years after I first qualified. In these 16 years I provide front line service both on weekdays and weekends without a second thought as my role models, my Consultants, were doing the same.
I have never sought to extract money from the public purse by claiming expenses and often do not claim when I should as I do not have time. I am proud to be working in the NHS and enjoy the company of a vast array of professionals. Each team acts as a patient advocate and is keen to see the NHS succeed. This means we innovate, introduce new services and look for quality improvement projects that then lead to service and cost improvement.
Have I immersed myself in the NHS culture and used every opportunity to develop my services at the expense of my family and work life balance? Honestly I have tried not to but my work does come first. Surgery has been a male environment and success as a female surgeon comes from merit not by right and has required a sustained effort.
I have utilised my own time to drive excellence in the care of the patient with diabetes who has a foot complication (Foot Atack). This has been at a local, national and international level and has been unfunded and is a passion. I also aim to improve the education of my trainees at all levels and will always go above and beyond my contracted hours to help a trainee in difficulty.
Do I feel valued by Jeremy Hunt? Not at present and this makes me feel angry and frustrated. I am a role model for my trainees and what do they see? A Consultant who works very hard for the NHS that is a resource labelled as lazy, who does not deliver the service in the time committed by the contract and could work much harder. Do my trainees want this? I suspect not and that is why trainees are qualifying in this country and then leaving for jobs overseas.
Have I seen my colleagues opt out of weekend working? Not at all and most of us did not even know that this clause existed. I think it is highly likely that even if we had known we would not have utilised it as we have all trained expecting to work weekends as patients need us 24/7. I have been brought up with the 7 day emergency service concept and have seen many great advances within this arena. Could I deliver a 7 day elective service at present? No as I do not have the resources both in terms of a workforce or investment to do this but am involved in projects to see how we can use what we have the best way possible.
We need you
If you feel that the NHS is worth retaining, please let my colleagues and myself know.
This knowledge will increase the retention of the future medical workforce who feel very disheartened and should know that you care both for them and the NHS.
Consultant Vascular and General Surgeon