Press Release

"The extra mile is the standard distance. Out of your depth is the standard depth. That's the world of the NHS." Adam Kay spoke to The Big Issue

Adam Kay spoke about his experience of being a doctor, and the NHS’ preparedness for the pandemic.

The TV dramatisation of This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay stars Ben Whishaw as the junior doctor Photo: BBC

The TV dramatisation of This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay stars Ben Whishaw as the junior doctor Photo: BBC

Today (Monday, 7th February), Adam Kay, the author, comedian and former doctor, spoke to The Big Issue.

Adam Kay spoke about his experience of being a doctor, and the NHS’ preparedness for the pandemic: “Everyone was running on empty, and it turned out those were the good old days. We were extraordinarily badly prepared. It was impossible to fully prepare for the catastrophe that unfolded, no one would have that level of slack, but we had a system that was in minus slack already.”

He continued: “There was no buffer whatsoever. Doctors have been saying for years that all it’s going to take is one really bad winter and things are going to fall apart. This was like 1,000 bad winters.”

When the politicians joined in on the clapping for the NHS, it was the last straw for Kay: “That was the turning point. And they stopped saying ‘the NHS’ and started saying ‘our NHS’. It’s not your NHS! You are the only people who aren’t allowed to say ‘our NHS’. Only the rest of us can say that, you are the ones f*cking it up – so just stay away from the banging of pans and clapping!”

On the Prime Minister’s recent behaviour, Kay said: “The rules were there to protect people. They weren’t rules, they were protections. I refuse to believe people would see the damage this virus does – seeing patients on intensive care units, saying goodbye to their relatives for the last time on a fucking iPad – and go straight from that to have cheese and wine. It just feels callous. All along, doctors were begging and continue to beg for people to just protect other people.”

Kay warned that things are worse than ever for the NHS: “I’m not sure I know any doctors who don’t have a Plan B now. Everyone’s thinking, I can’t do this forever. And they can’t. The NHS is 110,000 members of staff short at the moment – we can all work out where the problem is. It’s something no amount of soundbites are going to sort.”

Kay continued: “It needs money spent and it needs money spent in the right places. We need to recruit, and we need to retain – because there’s no point running the bath if the plug isn’t in. When I left in 2010, I was the outlier as someone who left the NHS. There had only been one other person in my cohort of 300. But, with no end in sight, you would have to be deranged not to think ‘I can’t maintain this level of work forever.’”

He concluded: “Goodwill is the key currency in the NHS. The extra mile is the standard distance. Out of your depth is the standard depth. That’s the world of the NHS. It isn’t like a normal job. You are constantly being pulled in to do more – and you have to say yes. Because someone could die.”

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