What I will tell the Prime Minister when I see her to celebrate the 70 years of the NHS- as a doctor, clinical entrepreneur and patient!
I remember my first day as a foundation year doctor, 10 years ago. I was in bright and early to take over a list of patients on a gastroenterology firm. I met my senior house officer that morning with my clipboard and stethoscope. She marched us on to a ward round that included over a hundred patients. We had been on-call the night before and had multiple admissions ranging from chest pain to leg swelling. I still remember the intensity of that day – the day we transitioned from learning medicine to practising medicine! The rest of the week flew by, and I can recall having to prescribe medication and being corrected by my nursing colleagues. I also remember going home and having nightmares about whether or not I had forgotten to check a vital blood test. Looking back now, working with the numerous healthcare colleagues to enable patient care as a junior doctor were some of the most of rewarding years of my life.
In the years of being a junior doctor, the difficult days were always made better by the knowledge that I worked with some of the most dedicated, compassionate and skilled healthcare professionals in the world. They taught me how to communicate better, to be more empathetic, and to always focus on the patient. It was the people in the NHS that made it an incredible organisation.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I met my eventual co-founder, Andre, in that first year and through the NHS. Andre and I worked together clinically, academically and we continued on a journey together to become clinical entrepreneurs and to create digital technologies for surgery. We eventually joined forces over 5 years ago to create Touch Surgery, the first product of the Digital Surgery ecosystem. As I discuss this post with Andre, we both recall times when we were on the receiving end of patient care – as patients and as relatives of patients. Having worked in the system, it is care that we feel privileged to have received.
Growing the team at Digital Surgery was not easy. We went from a basement office to a space of over 10,000 square feet, from four to over 160 employees across four time zones. The biggest challenges we faced and still face today are how to instill a common aim and encourage behaviours that are consistent with our values. We thought back to the lessons we had learned as members of that healthcare team – communicating with kindness, working with colleagues and putting aside personal differences, and giving your utmost to make a difference for patients. These lessons empowered us to build a vision centered around providing access to safe surgery, a culture that reflected equality and working towards the common goal of improving patient care.
When I meet the prime minister Theresa May today, I will reflect on my personal experiences of being a care provider and a clinical entrepreneur, but especially of how the NHS is a group of people bound by an incredible mission. As we look onto the next 10 years of the NHS, it is the people and unlocking their talents through the strategic deployment of technology, capital and culture that will enable the NHS to thrive.