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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June 2005, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
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REAL STORY: YOUR LIFE IN THEIR BOOZY HANDS
Wednesday, 13 June 2005
BBC ONE, 1900 BST

I saw the programme about alchoholism in the NHS and thought it a bit one sided and scaremongering. I know someone who works in clinics and helps specifically health professionals with alchohol and drug abuse and not once was this mentioned in the programme. A little balance was needed I feel.
Steve King, England

I am so glad that you have brought this problem into the light and I hope that it leads to a process which will bring about much needed changes in the way the NHS governs itself. Three years ago I temped in admin for a few months in my local hospital. I was appalled at what I saw and heard. The Manager in charge of my department regularly had a hangover and regularly topped up at lunchtime. She was regularly late or absent and too regularly just didn't turn up for appointments with very busy consultants. I was told that doctors would avoid drinking at the staff bar in the hospital and go to a pub where they would not be seen drinking and going straight back on duty. Patients who had been treated negligently and accepted an apology were not told that they had every right to sue. One lady was given another patient's drugs by mistake and I was told that with her condition the drugs she was given could easily have killed her. After seeing tonight┐s Real Story I realise that this is probably not an isolated hospital not performing as it should. Many thanks for your program
Joy, England

Whilst the alchohol abuse amongst medics is a cause for concern, surely the poor performance due to sleep deprivation is an even greater threat to patients?
A. Lindley
I am a health visitor in the NHS and I have had the misfortune of working with a colleague who frequently turned up unfit for work due to heavy alcohol consumption. This resulted in poor performance and at times very unsafe practice. I raised professional concerns about her behaviour,according to my Code of Conduct. The result? It was suggested that I find a job elsewhere. I experienced the corruption of the system first hand and it is not an experience that I would care to repeat. I am sure my experience is not an isolated one.
Maggie, England

I have been a doctor for 28 years and have never seen a doctor unfit whilst at work from drink. I have seen doctors unfit to work having been working for 24 hours or more without sleep and being incapable of giving coherent advice when woken up whilst on call due to sleep deprivation. I have helped alcoholic doctors retire early when they have been burnt out through alcohol and long hours. Hopefully doctors now work more sensible hours but they still work longer than pilots. A better question to ask your surgeon is how much sleep s/he has had rather than how much alcohol - or ask both questions.
Brian Crompton, UK

About three years ago, I went for the usual, non-malignant, prostate operation. Just before entering the theatre I was astonished at the level of whooping hilarity of some of the operating staff, which seemed to me to be a bit beyond just sharing a joke. The morning after the operation I was told during a ward visit by the surgeon that he had had a problem with my operation. Since my release I have been suffering from intermittent bleeding, sometimes quite heavy, and once causing a blockage. I seem to have been passed from one urologist to another during these three years without ever having been seen by the consultant who performed the operation. Your programme was enlightening and seemed to reinforce my private opinion that the operating staff were not in a sensible state of mind at that time. I do not think, however, that they had been drinking, but rather had been taking some other substance. Your programme didn't deal with the problem of other drugs, which would probably be harder to detect by patients and other staff. Having mentioned all of this, I must add that, of course, I cannot be at all certain about my feelings in this matter, which, whenever they have been mentioned within my circle of family and friends, have been taken with a bt of disbelief. Your programme has given me a little more credibility. Many thanks.
Mr F Reilly

You said alcholholism is a disease and treatable. In fact it is a self-afflicted conditon which can only be stayed by the efforts of the alchoholic. I've been there.
J.G. Lindley, England

I work in a profession at sea where we have zero tolerance on alcohol so therefore why are these people allowed to drink when operating on human beings?
Fred Duffield, England

Whilst the alchohol abuse amongst medics is a cause for concern, surely the poor performance due to sleep deprivation is an even greater threat to patients? Not all doctors drink to excess, but they all work hours that pilots, train drivers etc. would not be permitted to follow. When will this issue be seriously investigated? Could it be that the country is happy to put this stress upon doctors, especially the newly qualified, (possibly contributing to their drinking?), because our health service would grind to a halt if they worked a 40-hour week? Why don't you look at the ways the hours a young doctor works are "juggled', in an attempt to make the public believe the situation has improved? Have you not considered why the profession is at greater threat of alchoholism, marital breakdown, drug abuse and early death? (For surgeons, I believe, life expectancy after retirement is, on average, less than 5 years). I feel we were not given the full picture in your programme tonight.
A. Lindley

I know of a person who had her spinal cord cut by a drunk surgeon.
Leo

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SEE ALSO:
Your life in their boozy hands
09 Jun 05 |  Real Story
'I was an alcoholic doctor'
13 Jun 05 |  Real Story


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