Last night’s episode of Hospital showed our health service at its best: dedicated, passionate staff demonstrating their professionalism during a major crisis.
We saw how all the staff pull together in the aftermath of a major incident like the Westminster attack. Whether they’re a surgeon performing a life-saving operation or a hospital porter helping free up beds, everyone plays a vital part in making sure patients get the best care possible.
Shehan Hettiaratchy, Major Trauma Director and Lead Surgeon at the Trust, is one of these people. He played a prominent role in the episode and we saw him responding to the initial influx of patients and later treating Stephen, who was visiting London with his wife, Cara, when they were struck by the perpetrator’s vehicle.
Shehan spoke to the charity about the attack, the benefits of programmes like Hospital and the charity’s support for the A&E department.
“We’d been expecting a terrorist attack in the UK for 6 months and assumed London had to be one of the most likely targets,” he said. “It arrived and then you then switch into a well-rehearsed plan and that worked very well.”
“We have a major incident plan; we’d been rehearsing for having a far greater number of casualties than this. We prepare by practicing scenarios, practicing the pathways and practicing how we respond.”
The episode showed the plan in action, with Lesley Powls, site director at St Mary’s, donning the major incident hi-vis jacket (which she’s done twice more since the attack) and A&E staff scrambling to make sure beds were free and all non-essential treatment postponed.
“Everyone performed really well, it was all very smooth, very slick and I think they performed how I’d expect them to given the professionalism that exists within our centre, all the trauma centres around the country and the NHS in general.”
Shehan has nothing but praise for the show and the way it offers a down to earth, realistic portray of the Trust.
“I think programmes like Hospital are really important. I quite like the way the production company have been very understated throughout and I think this was an episode where they could have overblown it and they haven’t. They’ve kept it simple, very understated, they’ve focused on patients and that’s why it’s a very powerful bit of television.”
“What I like about Hospital is that it tells the truth. It also challenges the public; what would they do? There are important discussions to be had about how we fund the NHS, what kind of healthcare we want and as a society we haven’t had those yet and we need to do that.”
The A&E department provides a crucial service and we’ve been proud to support it in recent years. Notable improvements funded by the charity include a £3.5 million upgrade, resulting in increased capacity, and our Major Trauma Appeal which raised £1 for the major trauma centre that played such a key role in the episode.
The appeal paid for a Belmont Rapid Infuser, equipment which allows staff to quickly transfuse blood and fluids into patients at high volumes, much faster than was previously possible.
“It’s a really important bit of equipment,” said Hettiaratchy. “We get a lot of people in our trauma centre who have had penetrative trauma, particularly from knife cuts, a real problem in this part of London. We have a large number of people who rapidly need to have blood volume replacement.”
“We saw that with some of our casualties from the Westminster bridge incident and I think the Belmont Rapid Infuser really makes a big difference to what we can deliver quickly. It’s state of the art and that’s where we want to be.”
Because of the high volume of stabbings seen at the hospital, we partnered with the charity Redthread to tackle youth violence in London.
The programme helps young people involved in violence to turn their lives around by connecting them with youth workers while they’ve recovering in hospital.
“It’s been a really good initiative,” said Shehan. “We have a real problem with knife crime among adolescents and it’s really important for Redthread to intervene.”
“We often get people who’ve been stabbed once come back in again and often when they come back in, they’re dead. If we can break that cycle and break into their mindset and change their behaviour and change what people do to each other then it’s good. Prevention is always better than any kind of cure.”
“We’re massively appreciative of everything the charity has done for us. The fact that the stuff you’ve provided is being used on a daily basis, that goes to show that it’s money well spent. It’s made a big impact.”
We’re proud to support the incredible staff at the St Mary’s A&E department and will continue to do so. If you’d like to get involved and show your support to those who deal with some of London’s worst crises, please visit our fundraising page to find out how you can donate, take part in one of our regular fundraising events or organise your own. 100% of the money raised by the charity goes back to improving patient care around the Trust.
You can read more about our work to support the St Mary’s A&E department here.