The Independent Bath Literature Festival: Surgeon attacks chaotic hospital system

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The country’s most senior neurosurgeon has attacked the state of UK hospitals.

Speaking at The Independent Bath Literature Festival, Henry Marsh, senior consultant neurosurgeon at St George’s Hospital, London, said: “The only place I’m in complete control of what I do is in the operating theatre. As soon as I walk out through those double doors, it is not chaos, but it is always on the edge of it.”

A lack of beds, a constant pressure to reduce waiting lists and stifling numbers of managers all make his day-to-day work which he described as “like playing Russian Roulette with two revolvers” – near impossible, he said.

“I have an overwhelming sense of responsibility and have to make decisions as to whether a patient lives or dies. But I have less and less influence about how the hospital works. We have completely lost control of who we operate on and when and I find this very stressful.” Mr Marsh has been the subject of two award-winning documentaries – the BBC’s Your Life in Their Hands and Storyville’s The English Surgeon, which followed his work pioneering neurological advances in the Ukraine from 1992 to the present day. He has now written his first book, Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery, about the hospitals where he has spent his life and career.