Tuesday, September 2, 2014

7 months on.....I sound like a broken record!








So 7 months have passed since my last post, I bet you all thought I had disappeared for ever. No? Don't care? Thought not.

Well a lot has happened I say that much. I now have a very happy healthy one year old son, who is better than anything else so I'll mention him first. He still doesn't have a presence on Facebook which I am happy about and is still doing all the right things for his age.

I have also moved house. Again. Fortunately for my family it isn't quite as far as Queensland this time, but still a good 3 hours up the M1 to West Yorkshire. Once more this was necessitated by my damned need for paid employment.

You see, I didn't get a training number. Again. I am starting to see a pattern emerging here of poor communication skills and a lack of direction in the portfolio. I am going to have to focus more clearly on what I want to do as opposed to hedging my bets as I did this year. I have completed my core surgical training and attempted applications for ST3 in general and paediatric surgery. Having to plan for 2 interviews meant not planning for either enough. Suffice to say I hate interviews at the best of times and probably buried my head in the sand about actual preparedness as I hate practising interview questions and handing over built in answers. It is all so fake and makes my skin crawl, Yuk. It is something I need to get over as that is now 4 interviews I have messed up and it is starting  to affect me.

Anybody who wants a career in surgery should think very carefully. There is not enough spaces for everyone who wants to do it, even those who get into core training at CT1 as per the ASIT website. I feel the whole concept of core training is flawed as more than 2/3 of those in a post will not progress to the next level, as most people who go into it don't go in wanting to do radiology or A&E (or they could do that straight away). I feel it is just a way to save money and fill SHO rotas under the guise of training. What's worse is that ST3 applications now downgrade candidates who have been out of medical school longer (presumably to level the playing field and smooth the flow for candidates straight from core training).Therefore next year my portfolio score will be marked down as I have more experience. Again I wonder about the fairness of this as not everyone choose to go into surgery straight away or is full time all of the time. Anecdotally from the 18 core trainees that entered my core surgical training deanery in 2012, 5 got training positions. More than 5 are doing some stop gap or research and more than 5 left surgery altogether. I'm doing a stop gap. ST3 posts were released on May 24th and I needed a job by August 5th. Panic stations set in and I knew I didn't want to be someone else's research monkey for 3 years.

I am currently working as a Specialty Doctor in General Surgery at Airedale in Yorkshire. It is essentially a non training registrar staff grade post and is in a wonderful part of the country. We live in a cheap, spacious house with rolling hills and farmland all around, charming towns a short drive and within an hour I can be in Manchester or Leeds. The job itself is pleasant and I'm not working with any egos or idiots. I get more responsibility and the chance to work as a registrar and do my own clinics, ward rounds and teaching (but not theatres yet butterfingers). This has its upside as in it is more rewarding and I'm acting like a doctor and not just a ward administrator and retractor holder but means I get my fair share of problems which I used to send up the chain as an SHO, most notably dealing with difficult patients or having difficult conversations.

I am nearing completion of my Post graduate certificate in Leadership (Mary Seacole Program). Whilst the contact days have been enjoyable, I have found the whole process a bit overwhelming with having a full time job. Some of the other candidates on the course get 8-12 protected time at work to work on it! No such luck for me. I'm sure that would get laughed at if I mentioned that applying to me. My department in Leicester were not exactly helpful in doing the practical project side of things going and I'm glad it is soon to come to an end. I really wish I had enough time to engage more fully with it and not move house 3/4 of the way through it as the programme I feel is worthwhile.

So time goes on and the same things are happening  to me. I've had to nail my colours to the mast and go all out to be a general surgeon. I really like my current job and actually want to go in this direction as opposed to just being all "meh" and going with the flow. That is not to say I won't change my mind when I'm unsuccessful next year. My difficult to placate ego means I don't think I'll want to be a staff grade for ever, however it is very possible that my talent for surgery doesn't match my ego and I will have to try and climb the medical ladder in other areas. I have looked into the new alternative route of entry into emergency medicine training, which I am eligible for as a surgical trainee. It would suit my desire for action and immediacy but I might not like handing my patients off after 4 hours. I have put a lot of time, effort and money into being a general surgeon.


  • MRCS Parts A (£450) & B (£900)
  • ATLS (£600)
  • CCrISP (£700)
  • BSS (£400) 
  • Basic Laparoscopic Skills (£250)
  • Logbook (£200 per year) 
  • RCS fees (£300 per year)
  • Interview  course (£200)
  • Teaching Course (£180)
  • 6 audits
  • 5 book chapters
  • 3 posters
  • 2 regional presentations
  • 2 service improvements
  • 1 publication
  • 1 weekly teaching commitment
  • 1 mentoring programme
  • 1 post graduate qualification (£5000 - luckily bursary paid for) 
  • Not to mention all the annual leave and rest days I didn't take so I could do more operations.

And because I get nervous when interviewers ask me awkward questions, none of that was enough to get even within 200 places of a job. And my list isn't spectacular, in fact some might consider my CV slightly bare. So, again(!) we will wait and see. Hopefully I get a surgical training job, possibly accept a long term staff grade position, potentially change career entirely.

Or sack it all off and go back to Australia.

Oh, and I'm still really fat. More fat than ever. I seem to coincide starting diets with doing blog posts. I must give my fingers something to do when they aren't stuffing pies down my chops.


Monday, February 3, 2014

A tale of 2 rants.

Rant 1:

Circumcising babies for no medical reason.

I have worked in paediatric surgery for 6 months, so I am aware I see skewed picture. On average we see about one admission a month for complications of the aforementioned procedure. Now I understand it is an important religious rite for some people, but that doesn't have to mean I like it. People who say it is a low risk procedure, have you ever seen a 3 day old baby exsanguinating from the tip of their penis? Or a young boy which a suprapubic catheter because he lost the end of his urethra? It's not low risk, which is why it should be performed by urologists, in hopsitals, with consent forms and machines that go beep, for reasons that are physical not metaphysical.

The WHO suggested that male circumcision should be included in a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy. This is aimed at populations with high rates of HIV, and not at the expense of education and actual prevention. It does not stop transmission of HIV, only a modest reduction in transmission. There is no firm evidence to support its use to prevent UTIs, STIs or HPV penile cancer (which is rare as it is). Safe sex is the only way to actually reduce any of these. A recent paper in JAMA has suggested it is cost effective if used in the USA by reducing these. This is because their government funds the procedure. I'm upset about private procedures having complications that cost the NHS. People compare circumcision with vaccinations in terms of perceived health benefits. There is a large discrepency between the benefits of vaccinations and that of routine circumcision.

The reason it is done privately by GPs in their own rooms is because no right thinking doctor would do it otherwise in the UK. It is done without anaesthesia or pain relief. What really gets me is that these private, unnecessary procedures may only go wrong in a small proportion but the cost is born by the NHS not the privateers. Each baby that has been brought in this year has had to spend a night in observation for it. This indirect cost is not measured in pro circumcision papers.

Also, the boys have no say in whether or not they lose their foreskin. I would quite like to be informed if I was going to lose some of my genitals. Female genital mutilation is rightly seen as a ghastly act in most of the world, but if a study advocated its reduction in STIs or HIV would we still want to be using it? I'm aware the risk profile increases with age with the procedure, but waiting a few years or not getting it done at all would be more in keeping with my notion of primum non nocere.

So, if you are thinking of getting your infant son circumcised, firstly the NHS do not recommend it, secondly perhaps you should ensure that the guy who makes a mint out of you to do it, gets invoiced for the bill when it goes wrong.  Whilst you're at it, teach your son that condoms are better than lacking a foreskin at reducing STIs. Not that any of that would happen, because questioning 15,000 year old rituals would appear to be the height of bigotry.

Rant 2

People hating stay at home mothers.

When I tell people that we have a new son, one of the first questions I get is. "When is your wife going back to work?" When I tell them "Not for the foreseeable future." I am met with at best surprise and at worse criticism.

Things seemed to have changed in the world. It seems that it is no longer acceptable for just one partner to do money work and one partner to do child work. Many people including writers for "the newspaper that shan't be linked to" seem to think it's lazy and that people revel in being lazy whilst extolling the virtues of living such blatantly idle lives. It is as if child rearing has suddenly become an easy service that can be outsourced.

Luckily, I have a wage that can support a family of 3 which doesn't necessitate the need for my partner to go back to work to keep a roof over our head. Actually, Luckily is the wrong word, because there is nothing lucky about studying for 12 years passing medical school, post graduate exams and post graduate qualifications and accruing 30K worth of debt in the process. I've worked very hard to be in a position where I can allow my partner to raise our child.

The government seems to want everyone to make as much money as possible and outsource care to make even more money. This is not how I see living my life. I don't want some minimum wage dolt raising my children for over a third of it's life, surrounded by dirty toys and even dirtier children. Surely I trust my wife more than anyone else to raise our children, and she has a vested interest in raising him well as he is her child too!

From a simple economic view the gains do not outweigh the costs. A simple Google search of nurseries in my area puts the cost of a months day care at between 750-1000 pounds per month which does not include unsociable hours or extra curricular activities. If my partner was also a doctor we would have to find time out of hours, overnight, weekends, evenings at a premium rate or rely on parents/family to see us through. My wife's last job before maternity leave paid slightly more than the above quoted figure. Is it worth her working full time to come out with about 25% of her wages at the end of the month.

But wait! What if the government want to pay all of your childcare costs (in whatever fantasy land that will happen in). My wife still misses out on all the positive life affirming aspects of seeing your child grow themselves and not learn 2nd hand from an (NVQ certified!) child care assistant that her son strung a sentence together. Possibly along the lines of "Is it my fag break yet?".

Sure, we made a decision to spawn a being and are paying for it, we are 1000s pounds a year worse off for doing so. But this is our decision based on how we wanted to live our lives. Making a small proportion of it back by sending my wife out to work doesn't make up for the chance to raise the child yourself in an environment you have control over.

But it's sexist! I'm enforcing 1950s gender stereotypes on my wife by forcing her to stay at home! Not really. She has a choice to work or stay at home and she made it. I happened to agree with it. Working 160 hours a month for £300 sounds more exploitative to me. If I was the minority earner in the relationship, you might have found me at home in the day doing the housework and baby changing.

Lastly, being a stay at home mum is fun! Why shouldn't I encourage that. There is a fair share of one on one care work for our son, and then there is time for cake making and such! A lot of the negative criticism comes from simple jealousy that my wife leads a nicer life than slaving at an office to earn a bit of cash for somebody else, missing their child develop. Agitator in chief, you know the woman who quit The Apprentice and was on This Morning, her, the one who doesn't like the name Tyler, decries the coffee sipping, lunch goers. That is because these women are very happy, with partners who don't have to put up with the likes of her!

In conclusion, we pay for ourselves and have a happy, productive home, so you can take your opinions about our childcare arrangements and stick em.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Desert Island Drugs





When I was a medical student we had an interesting PBL topic where we were given the scenario of being stuck on a desert island with a population of people similar to what you encounter in general practice. On the island you were allowed to take with you 8 drugs and no others. These are the only ones you can use to treat any illness that may befall your population. You had to present your reasons for picking each drug. It was to teach us some pharmacology and also to think about the populations that we were treating.

Some people took it seriously, picking well thought out medications to help the most amounts of patients, doing what the task was designed to do. Others not so seriously, picking out all the drugs of abuse to go and get nice and high on the desert island.

I thought it would be a good idea to present mine again. Unfortunately I have forgotten completely the ones I picked 5 years ago. So I picked new ones based on my current hospital and primary care experience.

1) Morphine: Sorts your pain out innit. If life on the island sucks you can just get off your tits. Seriously one of the commonest and distressing things for a patient to have is pain. It makes sense to have one of the most powerful pain relievers to hand. I haven't packed a laxative, so my islanders may end up constipated addicts.

2) Co-Amoxiclav: Treats pretty much any infection. I'm struggling to think of a wider spectrum oral agent. Can be given orally. I'm sure I could distill the clavulanic acid out to give it to pregnant women. Not much fun for people with penicillin allergies though.

3) Prednisolone: Rheumatological problem? Dermatological problem? Haematological Problem? Respiratory problem? Sorts 'em all out! Unknown problem? Combine with 2) for best effect. I like my patients Cushingoid and Diabetic.

4) Aspirin: For pain not bad enough to need morphine. Also used in secondary prevention of strokes, MIs, cardiovascular disease in general and recurrent miscarriage. Plus if everyone takes it, it is a good way of avoiding or delaying elective surgery!

5) Haloperidol: Some very common problems - Nausea, vomiting, psychosis, bat-shit crazy, delirium, insomnia, reduced lactation, being a Soviet Dissident. All of which can be cured by vitamin H! I feel we need something to quieten people down and make people feel less sick when they have other problems. Extra-pyramidal side-effects notwithstanding.

6) Amitriptyline: Combine with the above for a quiet night. Although not a great anti-depressant this "dirty" drug (dirty in the sense it blocks a lot of receptors) has found a new lease of life as a second line treatment for chronic and neuropathic pain. Also used to treat urge incontinence, migraines, tension headaches, IBS, peripheral neuropathy and a range of psychiatric disorders. Overdoses are "interesting" to treat and nobody likes a dry mouth.

7) Hartmanns: Ill, Starving, or run out of water on a desert island. Better than Saline, I know this because my boss told me so. Contains a little bit of everything you might need. This can be used to replace fluid lost whilst your Augmentin is working. A good way to deplete somebody's potassium. You could assume I could knock up some IV fluid from local seawater etc. but that's stretching the metaphor a bit.

8) Lignocaine: I'd say this is my most controversial one. Now I'm assuming we have enough equipment and stuff to perform minor surgery on a desert island. Surgery, is a common reason to see your GP. You know, getting moles, lumps and bumps removed etc. Also good during and after child birth for tears. Can be used in joint injections and as a class 1 anti-arrhythmic. There's actually a surprising amount of surgery you can get done with it. It wouldn't contain adrenaline, so I could use it on fingers and penises.

So, there's my 8. Some surprising admissions (5-8) and some less surprising ones (1-4). However I feel I have a balanced bunch based on what I would prescribe in the community and in hospital to treat as much disease as possible. I've made some compromise with efficacy to ensure as many symptoms as possible could be covered. You may notice most of my drugs treat non-life threatening problems. Which exactly what most medical problems are.

Also, some equally surprising omissions from the list, which by the way can only stretch to 8. No insulin? With the 7% of our population with diabetes is a pretty big one to leave off the list. However it's of no use to the other 93% of the population. I'm assuming also desert island lifestyle involves a lot of exercise and fruit so type 2 diabetes rates should plummet.

The ubiquitous Paracetamol? I figured I'd cover it with other things that has 2 uses such as morphine or aspirin.

What if there is a cardiac arrest. No adrenaline? No amiodarone? I'd like to think the boat the washes me ashore would have a defib.

Propanolol almost made the list for its use in treating blood pressure (poorly) but also tachycardia, anxiety and stress.

What about propofol? Have that and we could have some real fun with surgery and sedation procedures. Pulling a shoulder might be easier, but we'd need an anaesthetist around to wield it as A&E folk are unworthy.

We could please the government and their venous thromboembolism gods by giving everyone clexane.

What about PPIs, hopefully coconut milk and lack of coke, cigarettes and beer would reduce acid related problems.

How would we control the population or womens periods without the OCP. Perhaps fashion prophylactics from coconut sap and bamboo leaves? Birth rates and bleeding would increase on the island.

As I alluded to before, what about all the constipated people from all the morphine and amitriptyline? Again hopefully the islands high fibre diet would take care of that.

If you are allergic to penicillin on the island as 5% of people would be? Tough, no room for an alternative. Erythromycin or Ciprofloxacin being possibilities.

Lastly, nothing to treat seizures. Carbamazepine also works for chronic pain. You could argue terminating seizures is more important than depression. Maybe not if the islands suicide rate started to climb.

So a lot to consider, and for a nerd like me very fun to hypothesize. Let me know if you have any suggestions for your list?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Desert Island Discs

An interesting conversation from the pub was about our favourite albums and which I would take should I only have 5 CDs and a player on my desert island. No iPods allowed I'm afraid. No compilations or multidisc sets either! This list is going to make me sound like a 90s NME fanboy, which is exactly what I was when it mattered to me what music I should listen to. So in no particular order.

1) The Queen is Dead - The Smiths: Not heard it being played during the jubilee but it's my favourite album by my favourite band. It's controversial, eloquent with excellent guitar accompaniment. It contains repressed rage and sneering arrogance to make me laugh and think every time I listen to it. Any song that can rhyme spanner with piano and not sung by Chaz and Dave is all right by me. Unfortunately it is only 36 minutes long and recycles by the time by 45 minute drive home has finished.

2) Definitely Maybe - Oasis: 2nd best début album ever, after the next one. So what if it sounds like a Beatles cover band? The Beatles were excellent. The production on this album is so good, it always sounds louder than any other song if you play "Live Forever" on a duke box. If you can get away with blatant cocaine references being played on radio 1, I like. Pity they are both Citeh fans.

3) The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses: Best début album ever. Mesmerising. I love Ian Brown's singing in it. It's really melodic when it has no right to be. I am the Resurrection is probably the best finish to an album I know of.

4) Magical Mystery Tour - The Beatles: There had to be one Beatles album on here. It might not be the one everybody else would pick. It manages not to be everyone's favourite despite having Strawberry Fields Forever on it. The drug addled psychedelia on I am the Walrus and ominous sounding Fool on the Hill give the album a really good mix.

5) Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine: One of this list is not like the others. 4 fairly standard indie classics to start with, this one is a bit left field. I first listened to this album when I was 15 in drama class, and it was immense. It was loud and angry and I could learn the bass lines and sound awesome. It was helped by Wake up being the tubthumping ending to "The Matrix" which is one of my favourite films. It lead me to buying the rest of their albums which are equally as good, especially if you fancy yourself an activist.

Some notable absences: Blood Sugar Sex Magic - Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Metallica - Ride the Lightening, Radiohead - The Bends. You get the idea!

Feel free to list your own, and tell me why my selections suck.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A tale of 3 CDs

Before my set of nights this week I went out and did something I haven't done in about 5 years. I went and purchased new music. Not new music to me, but new album releases. Even more out of character all 3 albums were in the top 20 of the current UK album chart. It was about time I embraced being an old man consumer of music instead of a young swotty hipster, which I don't think I ever was anyway, hopefully. It had been so long since I went to a music shop I had trouble finding one on the high street as the ones I knew have all shut.

Seeing as I don't post about medical stuff any more, because I don't want to get the sack and my interests outside of doctoring include childcare, music and football, I should post about that sort of stuff!

So 3 different albums and 3 different reviews.

Example - #Hits: 5/10

I have never really been into UK hip-hop or dance music so this cross over seems a bit different to me. However he was massive in Australia when I was over there and was fond of some of his popular club songs as it was quite nostalgic. Being a complilation it felt like a good place to start with a genre I have very little knowledge of.

Things started well enough, with the 2 tracks I knew best "Changed the way you kissed me" and "kickstart". Both of which familiar and toe tappingly engaging. After that is where it sort of goes awry for me. Possibly because they had less air time, but the next 10 or so songs sort of blend into once big electro meh. Beats were good enough on the ear to keep me awake on the M1 after a night shift, but nothing really stood out. Also, I never thought it would be the case, but a lot of his lyrics are kind of depressing. I figured dance/hip hop would be upbeat and confident, but there is alot of introspection on there. Not that I'm against deperessing, I thought it was a bit at odds with the background.

Thankfully he saved best for last with a Stone Roses "Fools Gold" sample and wretch 32 on "Unorthodox". Probably my favourite song on the album, because it was new, but familiar and lyrically brilliant from both of them.

The 1975 - The 1975: 3/10

Right, I purchased this going against every fibre of my being. They were on Soccer AM last week and I thought they were arrogant disengaged pubescent hipsters. I walked into the shop and the bloke behind the counter sighed loudly when I placed their CD on the counter. Both warning signs. However I liked their single "girls" and they were number 1 in the album chart and they'd come out of nowhere so they must be pretty good for all those British people to buy that album. All those British people are wrong.

It sounds as if some teenagers have listened to an All American Rejects album from 2002 and thought " You know what? Combine this with a bit of Cockney talking in the bridge and this will be great!" It started with a disjointed intro track, then came one pointless cliche after another. "She already has a boyfriend", not exactly inspiring. It sounds like some GCSE students English Literature essay, but graded at C at best. The lyrics are boring or inaudible. Backing singing is poor. Some of the melodies were Westlifeesque. Track 11 "girls" is genuinely quite good and they were right to release it first. The guitar has a bit of a calpyso quality about it, and he can carry a tune in it.

The rest of the album I could leave. So much so that when the CD finished, went on loop and played from track 1 again, I didn't even notice as it was so bland. So the lesson from this experience for me is: Don't buy an album on the strength of a good single or the behest of the public. The last time I did that was Alien Ant Farm's - "Anthology" and I'm still shuddering.

Arctic Monkeys - AM: 8/10

I was very much a Monkeys fanboy in 2005. I was living with friends at uni, we thought we were cool and we'd seen this band do a secret gig at our union in front of no more than 300 people. 3 weeks later they were number 1 in the singles chart and winning Grammy's. I loved their first album, I thought Alex Turner's voice was fantastic and his lyrics were gruff but poetic at the same time. He sung about stuff that I knew about which it should as we are the same age. The music was simple and fast and funny. "Fake Tales of San Francisco" could have been about some of the girls in my first year at medical school.

However I sort of lost touch with their music after that. Their next 3 albums passed me by as I became an uncool recluse who studied a lot and listened to too much Morrissey. I didn't even realise that this was their 5th studio album already and have still not listened to "Humbug" or "Suck it and see".

So I thought I'd give this one a whirl after my cousin was waxing lyrical about it to me. I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed.

Firstly, they have come a long way as a band. Their sound is a lot cooler and edgier now. The lyrics are still fun and sometimes about the mundane but that speaks to me all the more. The guitar on "Arabella" reminded me of Black Sabbath's "war pigs" which is one of the best there is.

The sound could be straight out of some trendy New York underground bar. He has toned down his accent slightly and sings a bit more, both for the better. Some of the beats are so hip-hop and heavy they could have come straight out of Compton. The production is so good you can tell he has cool friends and is not just thrashing out a song on an old BBC telecaster. "R U Mine" is a great single and "Why do you only call me when you're high" was strangly melodic and hyponotising.

It only drops 2 points because I have a short attention span and some of the middle tracks follow a similar theme and probably fall victim to the other tracks being so entertaining. Other than that, I suggest you go out and buy it. I can't wait to put it on again when I get in the car later.

So there we go, a proper album review. I won't wait up for my call from NME. Also, I can see my wife reading this and thinking I'm a pretentious oaf. We'll see.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

New Horizons

Please excuse any errors due to writing in a largely sleep deprived state due to the newest addition to the Mabbutt household, baby Connor, born on the last day of July. The whole labour experience wasn't very pleasant for anyone involved but that rant is stored for another day. Some friends have questioned why I haven't posted any pictures of him online as they are all very keen to see him. Well my friends in Australia notwithstanding, you can see him any time you like. He's in our house 24 hours a day. Also, with social media pictures, he doesn't have a say in whether or not he wants his pictures to go on facebook and therefore I don't want to put pictures up unless he wants me to. I know I wouldn't want unapproved pictures of me going on facebook. If you don't feel close enough to us to visit but would like to see what offspring I have produced then I don't mind sending you a picture, just not for the public domain.

Parenthood in general is pretty much what everyone painted it as. "You'll have no idea what it's like! Life changing!" I heard those two phrases ad nauseum whilst Abi was pregnant and now I know why. I'm bloody knackered. He is a very nice looking baby and I have fun interacting with him but he doesn't do much further than produce stuff from various orifices. He has also learnt we come running if he cries, so now does so just for attention even if he is full, burped and changed.   However since going back to work I do look forward to coming home to see him. He did start smiling recently but I'm pretty sure that's gas. Surprisingly, he is pretty cost neutral. The money I spend on nappies and formula *gasp from the breastapo* is mitigated by the lack of money I spend on socialising. Also, we get 20 quid a week from the goverment just for procreating, which I find astounding as I think the government has better things to spend their money on than. The money could probably far more benefit somebody else as opposed to a family who are relatively comfortable. I won't say no to free money though so I'm not that saintly.

I have also started a new job in a new hospital in a city an hour away. I have decided not to move there as we currently have a good social support network in Northampton and I'm not exactly a fan of Leicester having lived there for 4 years and being burgled and robbed plenty of times. I've never worked in a large teaching hospital before and it is definitely a step up. In complexity and number of patients. I'm working in Paediatric surgery which is immensely interesting and rewarding, and being a parent myself definitely helps me know what parents of sick children go through. However as it's a new place I need to gain the trust of my bosses before I'm allowed to do anything, and still getting to grips with drug dosing and differences with children as patients. The nurses are very experienced and are quick to provide feedback on how best to position patients and cannulate them etc. Also, all juniors from FY1-2, CT1-2, ST1-3(paeds) GPVTS1-2 are all on the same rota, so I get a feeling not much is expected of us if a house officer can do the job, and sometimes feel like I'm treated accordingly. No offence meant to house officers but you gain some insight into how a hospital works if you've done it for 5 years already. I did an elective module in Paediatric surgery as a student and wanted to be a paediatric surgeon, but the lack of jobs and wide geographic area over which they work both put me off.

As for the hospital itself. The computers are standard hospital slow, the parking is terrible, the lifts are haphazard, the ceilings are too low, the neonatal unit is a 10 minute walk from the paediatric ward, the canteen is extortionate and all the catering staff wear silly looking flat caps. Other than that I like the new hospital I work in. I've also been assigned to do an audit, one that isn't related to my specialty which is odd as I'm normally pretty proactive in starting my own. I guess it's to make sure everyone gets one done so the department looks good.

Another gripe I had from the last week came in the form of an email I received. I was sent am email with a poster for a local conference and there were 100 spaces. The price was £40 for nurses and other health care professionals and £70 for doctors. Now why the bloody hell do I have to pay almost double the amount of money that a nurse has to for what is exactly the same list of lectures and seminars. I don't get anything extra and before people say "but doctors get paid more, so should pay more" I say a band 8 nurse consultant or matron is on a damn sight more money than I am, so should they pay more as well?

I've also had my supervisor meeting where my masterplan for ST3 applications was formulated. All in all the last few weeks have been all new and exciting.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Abdominal pain = Surgeons



There is an interesting rule at our hospital that anybody with abdominal pain is seen be a surgeon before anybody else. The reason for this is that most causes of abdominal pain are dealt with by surgeons. This is thought to stop patients coming in under another team and then having a serious surgical diagnosis missed. It is also about sharing out the inpatient work load as the physicians are very busy and is unfair them looking after all the non operative chronic abdominal pain. It might also have something to do with grumpy surgeons refusing to see patient's that they deem "not surgical".

 This is very noble and a good idea in theory but the problem comes when the abdominal pain is due to something surgeons aren't good at managing. Once a patient has your name on them, it is very hard to get another person's name next to them, even if they'd be better off with them.

Also not every patient with abdominal pain necessarily has a surgical problem. Below is a list of diagnoses that I have actually seen in patients referred to myself as the surgical on call.

- Inferior MI - Epigastric pain and sweating
- Right lower lobe pneumonia - Right upper quadrant pain
- DKA - central abdominal pain and sweating
- Pre-eclampsia - Right upper quadrant pain 3 days post partum. This was made even worse by her having a BP of 160/100 and no platelets which no-body put 2 + 2 together.
- Septic Hip - Right iliac fossa pain (and a limp!!!)
- Ectopic - Right iliac fossa pain + vaginal bleeding + pregnancy test
- Labour - Yes, I've actually had a patient referred to me with "Abdominal mass, amenorrheoa and intermittent abdominal pain. ?tumour". 4 hours later they gave birth.

I haven't managed to get the Porphyria patient yet. But all the others are true.

Furthermore, the converse is true. Many patient's pigeonholed into being "medical" later turn out to have a surgical problem. The below patients are all patient's I have been referred by the medical on call and needed surgery.

AAA - collapse ?cause
Pancreatitis - confusion ?cause
Boerhaave Syndrome - Chest pain ?ACS
Necrotising Fasciitis - Leg swelling
Small bowel obstruction - Vomiting

Here is an interesting idea. Why can't we diagnose our patients and send them to whoever the patient needs. Medicine is not all about fitting people along a pathway or fitting in a box. Not every abdominal pain needs a surgeon and many patients without abdominal pain do.

This isn't a moan about A&E doctors. I've done a couple of locums in there and I don't envy their job at all. It's the politics behind the making up of arbitrary rules of who sees whom that annoys me. Perhaps if we were all a little more trusting and a little more keen to take over cases that come our way, this set up wouldn't occur.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Locum Agencies

I got very annoyed last week whilst on call. I think it was justified.

I got paged by an outside line during a particularly busy on call shift. This normally means a GP has a sick patient who needs to be seen or another hospital has a VERY sick patient with a vascular problem. Also, as the outside lines are on hold, the bleep tends to keep on going until you answer it. So I tend to answer these bleeps fairly promptly, sometimes even interrupting seeing patients to do so.

So I run to the nearest phone and dial the extension to be greeted by an enthusiastic male voice with the following:

Idiot: "Hello, Are you the surgical SHO on call? We here at Idiot Locums have multiple locum opportunities just for you!"

Dobber: "You know this is the on call page FOR EMERGENCIES?! Please do not call this number again"

I think I then got a bit uppity and self important with him, saying stuff about how I'm a very busy and important doctor and his call has potentially wasted time I could be spending with a patient. And then I was going to call switchboard to block calls from his number again. So all in all I spent another 5 minutes of my shift just trying to stop this idiot doing it again. I really annoyed me, because when I spoke to switchboard they said they put an emergency call through to us. So not only was he a time waster, he was a liar. I'm actually quite keen on locum work, if he had just asked our medical staffing department, he could have had my email address!

Pagers in general are a great annoyance. Not only is our hospital so lame that they can't pay for my bleep to get replaced as its 20 years old. It is also very obnoxious and inefficient. You can't receive messages so you don't know what you are ignoring whilst you are doing a procedure. They also give no guarantee that the other person will pick up the phone at the other end. Carrying mobiles is even more annoying as you can't ignore them and will keep ringing until you pick them up. I always feel sorry for patients if I have to interrupt their history for a bleep. Even an urgent one. Especially as to the patient, the story they are telling is the most important thing to them at that moment.

Another thing! When I say I'm "on call" people always assume that means I'm asleep all night and that I only get a couple of calls a night. This is wrong and on call does not mean that any more! On call means that I cover the entire surgical side of the hospital and I don't sleep (my contract even says it is not allowed) at night. I work very hard and then go to bed in the morning. So I should just say "working night shift". But that makes me sound like I pack shipping containers. Which with the size of some of my jobs wouldn't be far off.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why the blackout?


Once again there is an extended period of time between posts. That is because plenty has happened in the last 2 and a half months. Lot's and lots. So much that tonight is the first night free from all the things happening. I was so busy, I tried to make sure I had as relaxing weekends as possible. As it turns out I failed from my list of weekend activities:

20-21st Apr: Dinner with school friends, Coffee with work friends, Haircut
27-28th Apr: MRCS Revision
4-5th May: Working nights (8pm-10am)
11-12th May: Working days (8am-9pm), Travel to Sheffield for MRCS Part B
18-19th May: Lash with work friends, Harry Potter land for birthday
25-26th May: Football end of season party, Trip to London for University Football Reunion Game & Champions league final
1-2nd June: 2nd on call (8am-1pm), Hospital with Mrs
8-9th June: Finsbury Park for Stone Roses
15-16th June: Auntie & Uncle silver wedding anniversary party
21-23rd June: Brother in law's stag weekend in Wales.
28-30th June: Working Nights (8pm-10am)
6-7th July: Working days  (8am-9pm), Spa with wife for her birthday
13-14th July: Friday night out with cousin, Baby shower
20-21st July: University friend's stag weekend in Cornwall
27-28th: 2nd on call, wife booked in on Sunday night for induction of labour
3-4th Aug: Sister's wedding, Wife discharged from hospital
10th Aug - 2034?: Looking after child

So the last few months have included a new job in a new city, passed my MRCS, went on 2 stags, attended my sister's wedding and the birth of a new baby boy. All of which could be worth a post on their own. That's not to mention the football, the cricket, the NRL, the NHS "bailout" and a whole myriad of other events which have just passed me by in the last 3 months.

So, I'm still here, just a standard surgical trainee (for the moment) looking forward to that great challenge, which most people tend to undertake, called parenthood. I have been very worried about how I would fare as a new parent, whether I would notice if he was ill, whether he would grow up to be a good boy, whether I'm giving him the right amount of food. Then I look at some of the parents who manage to have children that live past age 5 and worry a little less.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Your guide to being an FY1

With my ARCP coming up, I have been grasping at straws for ways to fill up my portfolio with useful things. A big box on the portfolio is for teaching. Now this box is currently empty, yet I am always teaching students and foundation doctors. Mostly this is informal hints and tidbits of information, usually when they ask for help. Helpfully, whilst chatting to a medical student bemoaning her lack of preparedness for being an actual doctor in 2 months, I came up with an idea. I thought I should give a lecture on the practicalities of being a junior doctor, which the students seemed eager to absorb.

Then I thought, what advice do I actually have about being an FY1? I did a post 3 years ago about what I did as an FY1 but felt it wasn't helpful for students as it was just a list of boring tasks. There are lots of medical facts you learn at medical school but never really need to use. If you are present and reasonably attentive you should absorb by osmosis most of the things you need to know about hospital medicine to get by and compulsory courses should furnish you with information about how to use the defib and stuff like that. Practical skills will be picked up easily as you have to perform them ad nauseum, so don't worry about cannulas, bloods, arterial gases, catheters etc as you'll get plenty of opportunities to do them!

I have little advice about applications or what to do to get a training post as I am unable to get one myself! The people that already know the specialty they want as a 5th year medical student will already know what they need to do to get on and the bottoms to kiss (if any).

As it turns out I only have 5 pieces of advice.

- The List must be well maintained: I cannot overstate the importance of a good patient list. Spend 20 mins at the start and 20 minutes at the end of the day updating it and your life will be immeasurably easier. If everyone is accounted for in the right place, in the right order your ward round speeds up by 25% (citation missing). You don't have to spend ages revising about your patients, risking looking stupid on rounds because your list will have all recent scans and bloods as well as outstanding clinical problems. It will have all their demographics and past medical history so you don't need to rifle through the notes all the time. It also provides a place to collect all the jobs you need to do for that day. This is especially important on a post take ward round in a hospital where patients could be in one of 50 places. Ring A&E/MAU to find out where all newly admitted patients were dispersed to and update the list accordingly. Your seniors will think you are well organised and be nicer to you if the list looks good. It also helps if all patients can fit on one piece of A4 as it provides a psychological drain to the morning round if you see 3 pieces of paper. In addition to the list, your morning ward round should also contain spare history sheets, radiology request sheets etc so you are not forever running back and forth from the office.

- Ask for help: In your first job every problem you will be presented with will be new. You can muddle your way through the first 15 minutes of most urgent ward calls with a combination of Oxygen, fluids, pain relief, and doing bloods. You then have 3 layers of doctors above you to ask for help. If you don't know the answer to a question and it can't be easily gleaned from the BNF or trust guidelines, ask for help from a colleague, they were all house officers once. Having a patient come to harm because you were hesitant to ask a senior or did the wrong thing is worse than appearing needy or having a grumpy registrar. I honestly like being asked what to do by a junior. It makes me feel like I've learned something in the last 4 years. This advice also applies to your career or life in general. If you want to be a neurosurgeon and don't know how to go about it, ask one, most people will be flattered you want to do their chosen career and will dispense advice accordingly. If life is getting difficult with housing, relationships, children, bullying, asking for help will be a lot better than keeping problems to yourself.

- Do what you are told: I mean this in the nicest possible way and only if it's legal. If a patient doesn't want to be stabbed any more, leave them alone.  If on the ward round your boss says do daily bloods, this is probably a good idea. If the anaesthetist wants an echo before an operation, again, this is probably for a reason. Sometimes life isn't that glamorous and just getting on with the pile of discharge summaries, scan requests and paperwork is the only way forward. If you can present a fully completed job list at the end of the day even if you have had to speak to 6 different people for one thing it will be worth it for you, your patients and your references! If you think another member of the MDT is a jobsworth and is making stupid, picky demands just smile and perform their request. Don't forget, you have been there 2 weeks, they may have been there 20 years and they probably talk to your boss more than you do. This goes for trust/deanery/contractual instructions. If they want rota monitoring yearly, do it. If you need 6 case based discussions a rotation, then that is what you need. If you need a week of mandatory training, so be it. Moaning about it and then doing them is better than not doing them. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't point out bad practise or seek to change things you feel are unsafe or inefficient, you should just aim to keep as many people on side as possible as you'll need them to change things! This brings me onto point 4.

- Be nice: To everyone you meet at work. Patient's are the most important people in the hospital, even if you sometimes want to scream at them. This is followed by nursing staff. Hospital's are very incestuous places and if you are spiky or arrogant to even one porter, radiographer or pathologist in a distant wing of the hospital, you can guarantee that they are related to staff you work with regularly. News spreads fast, so if you act like an idiot to one nurse all the other nurses find out quickly and treat you accordingly. It may be difficult if you have been bleeped 5 times about a sick note when you are at an arrest, but be polite, thank them and apologise profusely that you haven't had time. Making tea for people is nice as well. Asking people how they are and smiling is also useful. Being nice to all the ward staff has many benefits for you. They are more likely to do what you ask when a patient is crashing.

-Turn up on time: Most important in my opinion. Clinics run late, theatres run late, emergencies make you run late, but for your morning duties, there really is no excuse.You could be the best doctor in the world, but you are as useful as a chocolate teapot if you aren't there on time.  People will notice if you are not on time and will comment. Get out of bed earlier. Punctuality ties in with the first rule as the list can't be maintained if you are late. It ties in with the third rule as you are not following your contractual obligations if tardy. It ties in with the fourth rule as lateness is akin to rudeness and not enjoyed by your seniors especially if you don't let them know you are being late. When you give a time to do something to the nurses, try and stick to it, as it will only get you bleeped when you are not there. Timekeeping is even more important when you are a medical student. You don't bring much use to the team so the only thing you can do is to be on time and appear interested.You can forgive a degree of incompetence if you are at least punctual. Also, always give realistic estimates of how long you will be when talking to nurses, theatre staff etc about outstanding jobs. Nothing worse than hearing "30 minutes tops" from the surgeon and then the operation finishes 2 hours later. You also look really good if you do a task before you said you would. I have been late to work once in my life and it was my own fault and I could still kick myself for it. I cycled to work but forgot to pack a pair of trousers so had to cycle back into town to get to a Primark to buy some so I had something to wear that day other than pants. It was only 10 minutes but I still had my boss tapping his watch when I got back.

So there you go, nothing really clever, mostly common sense things that people should do in everyday life, not just in medicine. I have to say I've probably fell foul of all the rules at some point or another, but hopefully not often enough to cause any lasting damage.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Becks' Euro Tour & Sick note

Football (important) Segment

I watched PSG V Barcelona this week and was quite surprised by the negative reaction that Beckham's performance garnered. Here are my 2 centimes.

He was playing against the best midfield in the world and even the 2nd best team in the world would normally give up 65-70% possession to them.

He did exactly what I would do if I knew I was slow but could pass the ball. Sit deep, press only in the final third and spray the ball out to the wings quickly when you do see the ball.

He has strengths (passing) and weaknesses (lack of pace) and played to them. Everyone knows he can only manage an hour but I felt he didn't do a bad job. It might look that way because his replacement was  brilliant for 30 minutes but I don't think he deserved the bad press he got.

Even if it was to sell shirts, PSG obviously saw something in him and Ancelotti is no mug, so wouldn't have played him if he didn't have that exact game plan in mind. He has managed under Burlesconi and Abramovich so I think he can handle egotistical owners and talk of the owners forcing Becks to play is rubbish.

Non-football segment 

There is a big petition about GMC and social media here. You could sign it for the amount of good it'll do anyone. I know I'm not a snake oil salesman or quack so I should just do what I'm told. I want a training job more than anything!

In other news, this week I had my first sick day in 10 years of being working age. I've hurt my back playing football before and it's taken a few days of creaking and NSAIDs to get better but never stopped me working. This week however, there was no precipitating event and one morning I just couldn't get off the toilet. Searing pain in my back when not in neutral position. I'm hopefully not displaying any red or yellow flags so it should be a short time on the sidelines!

It does mean I will never silently judge any colleague or patient who needs time off for a bad back. The amount of pain I was in Thursday and Friday should not be inflicted on anyone, let alone making them go to work! It might even make me a nicer doctor to people in chronic pain. I know it seems harsh but when you spend your days telling people that they are dying slowly or quickly or have some terrible disease you find a lot of your emotional energy drained for the people with chronic abdominal pain with no discernible serious cause. This will be something for me to reflect on, and I've only spent 3 days in pain with a relatively minor pathology!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A much needed revamp






Below is part of the GMC guidance on the use of social media.  

17  If you identify yourself as a doctor in publicly accessible social media, you should also identify
yourself by name.Any material written by authors who represent themselves as doctors is likely to be taken on trust and may reasonably be taken to represent the views of the profession more widely.


18  You should also be aware that content uploaded anonymously can, in many cases, be traced back to its point of origin.


This may be in part to stop people dispensing bad medical advice and hiding behind anonymity. It may also be an attempt to silence foul mouthed Facebook based pseudonym doctors. Either way it makes it pretty clear that I can't go on being anonymous (or trying to be) and presenting myself as a  doctor. I've therefore taken two steps to rectify this to ensure my practise is up to date with good medical practice.

Firstly, I have deleted all past posts on my anonymous twitter feed pertaining to being a doctor so that it is just about a young man from the midlands moaning about football and politicians.

Secondly all posts from now on, on facebook, twitter or blogger will be in my real name. Be they complaining about the England team or my worries about the NHS under a Tory government post Francis report.

I am aware that a lot of posts are archived and I'm sure they are obtainable and traceable. It would however mean somebody really wants to find out about me, maybe a registrar interviewer. I've been looking through all my old posts recently and there is some content that I'm not happy with so will delete all of it. As far as I know I've never let confidentiality be breeched or said anything libellous or inciteful and would be mortified if I had.

It's a shame to delete it all, as there is about 68,000 words over 3 and a half years, but I feel I need to. 68,000 words, that's practically a PhD thesis! Albeit with more grammatical errors. I wonder if anyone would have paid money to print it. Never fear they are on an encrypted password protected drive for my own nostalgia, away from prying eyes. Not that I think I'm saying anything ground breaking or special.

So here goes, the unveiling. Drum roll.....

My name is Scott Mabbutt, I am a core surgical trainee at Northampton General Hospital. I'm married and have a child on the way. This blog might mention my job but will hopefully be about football and impending parenthood. In introducing myself I will paraphrase my very first post from 2009 as it is sort of a new beginning.

Now, why a blog? And why now? I have been meaning to write a journal or some reminder of my early Years, so when my grown up job interview comes around I will have an aide memoire to reflect upon and talk about.

I have chosen to start now, as this is the first evening that I have not been tired, occupied or working since May, when I intended to start a blog about my elective.


There is a plethora of medical blogging out there, which is equally scary, due to quality of it all, and comforting as there is safety in numbers. I don't aim to moan everyday, and I don't want to describe what I do like it is the most important thing in the world. I'll just try and give my spin on the days or weeks events at home and sometimes away.

I also will try not to get political. Soapboxes are not my forte, I get a bit of a headrush up there. There are plenty of blogs that are more knowledgeable and controvertial than I am! Also I find reading some blogs, to be a bit self-indulgent; well all blogs are self-indulgent, but some more than others.



It's funny how some of that might have gone out of the window!

Bear with me, if there is anything too important not to write about, hopefully you'll find it here. Not before I've done all the things the GMC advise me to do first. My wife has told me I write best when I'm not trying to, so will try to write about what I know. That is football, food and being a junior doctor. I may even post some old blog posts that I deemed publishable from the old days.

It might make the blog a bland place, but it means anything that appears here, I would be happy being read out at a GMC hearing.