A surgeon who posted a picture of himself mopping an operation theatre’s floor during his own time in response to Jeremy Hunt’s suggestion that doctors do not work weekends has thanked the outpouring of support he has received online.
The Facebook post, which has been shared 99k times and has attracted 125k ‘likes’, shows consultant Stuart Gould mopping the floor between operations - despite not being on call.
He has publicly questioned whether Mr Hunt is ‘misguided, misinformed or just plain ignorant’ in his plans to announce forced weekend working.
The health secretary has said that a ‘Monday to Friday’ culture in parts of the NHS has tragic consequences with 6,000 people dying each year because of this - a statement that Mr Gould, who specialises in emergency general surgery, says is completely misleading.
The politician has been accused of attacking hardworking doctors and being too simplistic in his approach.
Mr Gould has branded it ‘doctor bashing’ and said a massive amount of investment would be required to provide the infrastructure if Mr Hunt wants doctors to carry out elective surgeries at nights and weekends. Emergency surgery is already carried out around the clock.
“Jeremy Hunt’s implication is that if you just tell doctors they are working weekends then everything will be OK, but it won’t,” he said.
“If you want elective work at weekends you have to provide the infrastructure of a hospital as you do on a Monday morning.”
He said the health minister’s comments have left hardworking medical staff, who could also be facing a pay cut under Mr Hunt’s plans, fed up and demoralised.
“These guys give their absolute all to be faced with a statement like that by someone who should really know better,” he told the Gazette.
“In 26 years of working in a hospital I have never seen such a strong undercurrent of bad will and low morale.”
Along with his floor mopping picture, married Mr Gould, who lives in Boxmoor, Hemel Hempstead, and works for a busy London hospital, posted on Facebook: “This is me. 10pm tonight. I am not on call. But I have come back to the hospital because my particular skills are needed. I am mopping the floor between operations to help the theatre staff so we can start the next case sooner.
“But this little story is not about me. It is dedicated to my team of young trainees.
“They all stayed well beyond the call of duty to get my poor pt (patient) into theatre. My two assistants had been on call all day. They should have gone hours ago. But they stayed on with me until gone midnight to make sure I had help as it was mayhem elsewhere for the night team. 17 hour day for some of them. One can’t get home, has borrowed some pt toiletries and will be sleeping on the hospital floor.
“And guess what, they will all be at it again from 0800, as will the consultant anaesthetist with me.
“Sorry Mr Hunt but that is absolute professionalism. I can’t see lack of compassion, vocation or dedication anywhere. This is the sort of thing, on which the NHS DEPENDS to keep running and save lives, and that your ignorant remarks will destroy to the detriment of our Pts.”
Currently, senior doctors can opt out of weekend work as long as it is non-emergency, but they are still expected to be on call.
Mr Hunt believes his reform will help to drive up standards over weekends.
In another social media post Mr Gould said: “Wonder whether he has ever spent a few days and a weekend or two in a frontline hospital to see how it works?
“Very irritating to see what appears to be spin with no substance and twisted facts “
The consultant has also praised his medical team via Facebook, saying: “I salute your dedication.
“Please remember politicians come and go and are largely quickly forgotten. You, on the other hand, will still be here - and must not let them destroy your absolute determination to see that our Pts get the best possible care, whatever the circumstances.”
The consultant’s mopping picture and statement has received 3.6k comments, much to Mr Gould’s surprise.
“I have been overwhelmed,” he said. “It was just a simple bit of encouragement for my medical colleagues who are feeling rather disheartened at the moment.
“The public seem to have got completely behind it. The vast majority of comments are from members of the public and previous patients.
“I think the image that all doctors are paid massively well and spend all their time on the golf course has been crushed.
“It looks as if the public may know a little bit more than they did a week ago about the circumstances under which we work.”
A spokesman for the North West London NHS Trust said the organisation is not issuing a statement as this is a personal campaign being led by Mr Gould.