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Goodbye to all that

A valedictory lecture from a consultant colleague has the Jobbing Doctor mourning a bygone age

I have just done something very old fashioned.

I have attended a lecture at the local hospital. We don't, in these frenetic times, do that much and it is a shame.

This was a valedictory lecture of a valued consultant colleague who is just about to retire, having worked as a consultant for 24 years in the locality.

Many of these lectures have a wistful, rosy-tinted feel to them, and this one was no exception. The themes that were evident in his assessment of the state of the NHS are as relevant to hospital medicine as they are to general practice. All of a sudden I was a young Jobbing Doctor, making my way in my career, and experiencing many of the same career events as he did.

We reflect on what is no longer there. The doctor's mess, for example. We would live and work in the hospital, and have somewhere to relax and unwind after the tribulations of working in the wards. There was a bar, and we would be able to drink within the hospital. We used to play bridge, and always had a reserve in case someone was called away.

Then there was the accommodation - free of charge, and it came with the job. The beds were made up every day, and it was a really unusual colleague who lived outside of the doctor's mess. You had a clean and starched white coat every day, and we had a pride in the hospital we worked in.

There was the hospital Christmas Show. This was a revue that took place every year, and the more thespian-minded doctors would star in the Christmas Show, and enjoy writing acting and directing these shows. Each District General Hospital had a christmas show.

He then starting musing on the current state of working in hospitals, and it does seem to be a thoroughly miserable and faceless existence. There are many more consultants, to be sure, and the working hours are not as Stakhanovite as they were when Jobbing Doctor was an aspiring doctor. However, my view is that they still work extremely hard, and get precious little thanks for it. I was sitting next to a cardiologist colleague who qualified the same year as me, and it was interesting to compared how our careers diverged, and yet stayed quite similar.

He was not flattering at all about two groups of individuals who have little popularity with all GPs and consultants, and that is the managers and politicians. It is interesting to see that my increasingly desperate view of these two groups is entirely matched by my hospital colleagues: and we can reflect, in separate ways, the damage wreaked by their ever-changing policies.

So he marches off into the hinterland of medical retirement, looking back with pride on what he has achieved. We will not ever see consultants like him who are given a free rein to develop services in the way that he has done so.

He has worked tirelessly to achieve what he set out to do, and to leave a legacy of quality care and services for our locality. He leaves without any garlands or thanks from a hospital that he graced for all that time, and it was interesting that only medical colleagues attended.

So, goodbye then, my friend. The hospital is a poorer place for your retirement, and in the next few years many others will be following you, unthanked and regarded as troublemakers and loose cannons.

Truly this is a clear example of the triumph of the managerial classes.

To no-one's benefit.

Jobbing Doctor