Intended for healthcare professionals


Experiences from the NHS front line

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 09 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1182
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}


The Royal College of Physicians has published a report collating doctors’ experiences of working in NHS hospitals.1 Here is a selection of quotations, which the college has anonymised

Burnout risk

“I have never before known a time when consultant colleagues are constantly exhausted, trainees so disillusioned. As director of medical education, I receive daily visits and emails from trainees who want to talk about leaving medicine—and hospitals under unremitting clinical and financial pressures. Of course, problems with recruitment also apply to other healthcare professionals—particularly nurses.”

Patients in danger

“As a regional hospital, it is almost impossible to get patients transferred in for specialist services. Patients are dying as a result of not accessing specialist care, as the hospitals are jam-full. It is also impossible to get patients transferred back to district general hospitals once patients have received specialist input.”

Pressure across system

“Of the people I saw this morning, not a single one had been referred by the GP, despite several having primary care amenable problems—they had bypassed primary care and defaulted straight to A&E. It’s an environment where all colleagues . . . are stressed with little in reserve, where tensions are unavoidable and where risk is inevitable.”

Corridor wards

“We have a policy to help each ward—not just the acute admissions wards, but each ward in the hospital—decide who is the ‘least bad’ patient to approach to ask to sleep on a bed in the corridor. We have a plan for which nurse takes responsibility for taking observations—they are recorded in ‘the corridor folder.’”

Raising awareness

“I feel strongly that we continue to have a duty to try to ensure that those members of the public who don’t witness the current stress the NHS is under are made aware of just how bad the current situation really is, in the hope of their adding to the pressure on politicians.”