The 12 Days of Christmas – a hospital doctor’s lament

4980cbdcDavid Oliver is the current President of the BGS, a visiting Fellow at the Kings Fund, and a consultant in geriatrics and acute general medicine at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.

This time last year, I wrote the “Geriatrics Profanisaurus” – all about words and phrases which should be banned when discussing older people. It triggered plenty of  responses “below the line”, adding to the list of ageist and ignorant language regarding healthcare for older people and went a bit “viral” online. Indeed, the BGS is now being followed by Roger Melly’s Profanisaurus on Twitter, as is occasionally “sweary geriatrician” Dr Wyrko.

As I started the precedent of a festive Presidential blog, I couldn’t resist my own re-write of the old favourite “The 12 Days of Christmas”. I say this as a frontline doctor who frequently disappears into an uber-busy acute medical unit, or emergency department and has inpatients who are increasingly frail and complex and often requiring step down health and social care services which are themselves over-stretched. It’s a very challenging environment both for staff, patients and families and one that I know colleagues right across the four nations face, especially in the winter months. Its important in letting off steam on this site – mainly read by clinicians, that we are all deadly serious about trying to provide the highest quality care for patients. So no fun is intended to be at anyone’s expense.

But here goes anyway: do join in, especially with a hearty “Five Interims”.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me:
Twelve “vacant” locums,
Eleven “bed meetings”,
Ten “points of access”,
Nine winter pilots,
Eight re-admissions,
Seven day working,
Six delayed transfers,
Five Interims,
Four hour breaches,
Three Iberian Nurses,
Two Norovirus,
and  an over-crowded ED…

I also sometimes find other songs going through my head that seem strangely appropriate to the jobs we all do. Here are one or two:

“Back in Black” …”I want my bed base back”  – with thanks to Los Bravos.

Or indeed “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse. “Black Alert” that is – when we have as many beds as Bethlehem had room at the Inn. At such times, though I am a Man City Fan, “Simply Red” would be a welcome sight for once.

Talking of Amy, if I had a quid for every patient whom I have wanted to send to intermediate care for ongoing rehab, but has preferred either to stay in hospital or to go home with no rehabilitation and support, surely “They tried to make me go to rehab, I say No, No, No” fits the bill.

Allied to this is the Beatles “Hard Day’s Night” – not only applicable to overstretched on call teams and nurses but also when patients who don’t want to stay another hour in hospital say to me “Doctor, when I’m home…” and I do feel like replying “I know…everything seems to be right”.

Sadly it’s hard for many patients to understand that hospital consultants can’t click their fingers and magic up social care or community rehab places; I can see these patients singing Gwen Stefani’s “What you waitin’, what you waitin’ for?”

When it comes to falls resulting from postural instability, then we have to acknowledge the sage words of Miss Meghan Trainor: “It’s all about that Base”

Now over to the readers of this blog, for your suggestions! Nothing disrespectful or inappropriate, please or our Digital Media Editor will be in like Flynn and remove the post,  but if you can think of any more songs for the thread or any more lyrics for those twelve days, we’d like to hear from you!

Finally, let me wish you all a very Happy Christmas. And remember, winter pressures or not, the health service is an immensely rewarding place to work: our colleagues are troupers and caring for people at their neediest is a privileged occupation, however demanding it may be. But perhaps a bit of dark humour can help through the worst two clinical weeks of the year.

2 thoughts on “The 12 Days of Christmas – a hospital doctor’s lament

  1. Right i’ll have a go
    On the twelfth day of Christmas West Midlands ambulance sent to me:
    12 ladies falling
    11 men collapsing
    10 constipations
    9 trolleys waiting
    8 exacerbations
    7 escalations
    6 committees sitting

    5 UTIs
    4 ‘off her legs’
    3 queries
    2 who’ve run amok
    and a social worker who’s on leave

    Happy Christmas

  2. Matron Brooke that is a fine alternative version. This exchange reminded me of a junior doctor who worked for me some time ago, who made his disdain for geriatric medicine pretty clear, was only comfortable on the Computer on Wheels, plotting eGFR graphs, or giving inotropic support or non invasive ventilation and was perturbed by my unfortunate habit of spending time listening and talking to older patients and their families, or breaking off ward rounds to speak to visiting clinical teams thus messing up his world order. I took my revenge in private by penning an alternative version of “Freedom” by Wham (for private consumption) but now that he is long gone, I couldn’t resist sharing. It goes like this

    A festive treat – to the tune of “Freedom” by Wham

    I could barely keep my self from snoring
    ‘cos geriatric medicine is so boring
    But I’m stuck here for now – working in Elderly Care

    This is the low point of my rotation
    Just social work and rehabilitation
    My intellect needs much more stimulation

    Well I know its only four months
    But it seems like so much longer
    Till I take my ass off to respiratory
    Where the medicine’s so much stronger
    And I’ll wear theatre blues

    I don’t want Delirium
    No old people falling down
    I don’t want Dementia baby
    Older people bring me down
    They’re all “not for ressus”

    All that I want is ICU

    Merry Christmas One and All

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