Fairy tales Retold: The Little Dutch Boy


Hans was apparently the name of the plucky young man who plugged the hole in the dyke wall with his thumb, thereby saving his town from flooding. Sometimes NHS clinicians may feel like Hans, trying to prevent 'imminent doom' with 'heroic' deeds.

Whether you work in primary or secondary care, recent years have brought an increasing sense of 'too little butter scraped over too much toast', just like Bilbo Baggins after years of living with The One Ring. However, the service rumbles on, regularly feted as being one of the most efficient health care systems in Europe, and doctors maintain their standing as one of the most respected professions in the UK.

So, why do some feel it necessary to take pot shots at Hans? He can't move - he's busy saving his town from certain disaster. He's an easy target. He can't pick up his AK47 and fire back, or everyone will drown.

Perhaps the attacker feels Hans will do his job better if he has several bullet holes in him and is bleeding heavily? Or perhaps they think Hans doesn't bleed? But he does, he bleeds new recruits. Applications to take over Hans' role are falling - they have enough to do sorting out the dam, without also being shot at. They will find equally essential roles elsewhere, with fewer dykes and fewer assailants. They don't like the thought of phony photos showing them enjoying 'me time' or clutching handfuls of money, allegedly earned doing non-essential, easy work, when they should be plugging the hole.

I think the person holding the gun believes they are the voice of the people, keeping Hans awake, so he doesn't become sloppy at his job. Fair enough, but is shooting at him the best way to achieve this? Hans already has to take part in continuous professional development to maintain his credentials as a dam-plugger. Perhaps they should be shooting at the dyke manufacturer, whose sloppy process has produced the fault in the first place? Oh silly me, the dyke company also bought them the gun, so they really can't turn on them.

Yes - I am upset. I am upset because some people who are trying to sell a newspaper wrote an article which badmouthed my profession (again). I really shouldn't be upset. I know the NHS isn't all perfect, all of the time. I know mistakes are made and people suffer, unfairly. But the newspaper sellers would be wrong to wash their hands of the consequences of their offerings. There are always consequences; think of the drop in MMR uptake following media coverage of the 'MMR and autism link' and the subsequent measles outbreak. How many of you have been on the receiving end of a 'joke' comment about the enormous amount you earn, or how many grannies you 'kill' with the LCP, or how many rounds of golf you play?

It's usually an indication of which newspaper they're reading. Small problem surely, but how can your patients trust you when they are repeatedly told you're lazy and only motivated by money? Newspapers definitely play a part in public health but may lack sufficient incentive to act responsibly. Until they do so, all the little Hans will have to dodge the bullets as best they can.

This month, to help you stem the flood we have updated our guidance on atrial fibrillation following the latest NICE guidance (also seen as "Aspirin won't stop strokes - but GPs will still be paid to give it out" in your newspaper.) For a full list of our 100+ article updates in June see: https://patient.info/content-updates.