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Archive: February 2015

  • Surgeons & Dangerous Sports

    As a keen snowboarder I should really question whether my chosen sport is ideal for someone whose hands, let alone the rest of me, are vital to my profession.

    I could comfort myself with the US Sports injury figures for head injuries that show that cycling and football create 5 times the number of injuries. I can then ignore the uncomfortable fact that snowboarders suffer more wrist and ankle injuries than skiers. They are more likely to wreck their knees. Statistics from the University of Utah show that snowboarding injuries have risen from 3.37 per 1000 in 1991 to 6.97 in 2001. In my view this can be put down to a huge expansion in the number of snowboarders in that time and a proportionate increase in the number of beginners who are most likely to injure themselves in any sport. At least I am not at the bottom of a scrum getting my hands stood on.

    Like most things in life these choices are a question of balance. The pressured  professional lifestyle led by my colleagues and I demands that, from time to time, one has to call ‘time out’ and do something completely different to recharge the batteries. That may well be one of a number of dangerous sports. For me there is nothing quite like the exhilaration of swooping down a virgin ski run with the blue skies, clear alpine air and sense of being on top of the world. It is difficult to think about work when you need to plan your next turn, navigate the ski area and avoid those with more enthusiasm than skill.

    Life without risk is life without contrast or colour and the experiences that make it worth living.

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  • Whistleblowing & the NHS

    Whistleblowing is an issue in the NHS that has been much in the news of late. The editorial in The Times today (12/2/15) ’Duty of Complaint’ makes the striking point that timely and open reporting of failures or ‘near misses’ is taken as the norm in the aviation business and a vital means of ensuring that quality is maintained and tragic outcomes statistically insignificant.

    I cannot help feeling that this type of error reporting would create an atmosphere of continual improvement in the health service and be a healthy change in what is in danger of becoming an unhealthy health service.I do not claim to have an answer but I do fear that the recommendations of Sir Robert Francis, supported by the Health minister Jeremy Hunt, are not the cure that is needed.

    The article makes an excellent point that ‘whistleblowing’ is the wrong focus and that “reporting bad practice should be risk free, routine and expected.” The NHS is too valuable to all of us for it to tolerate the sort of errors that would be unacceptable in other safety and quality conscious walks of life.

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