'Respecting our NHS staff is the very least we can do'

A group of Whittington Health Emergency Department staff before the pandemic

A group of Whittington Health Emergency Department staff before the pandemic - Credit: Whittington Health

Hearing about the abuse and violence faced by our doctors and nurses was eye-opening this week. 

And though Heidi Edmundson told us what staff experience at the Whittington's A&E – threats, physical abuse, even a sexual assault – this isn't an isolated issue. 

Simply put, attitudes towards the people trying to save our lives in hospitals don't reflect the performative gestures that have been such a big deal over the past 18 months. 

Emergency medicine consultant Heidi Edmundson

Emergency medicine consultant Heidi Edmundson - Credit: Whittington Health

We know doctors and nurses would prefer to be paid enough than to be clapped every Thursday. We know they'd prefer not to be scared at work, or going home with PTSD, too. 

To hear that doctors and nurses have in the last few months – long after we supposedly remembered the importance of our NHS in the height of the early pandemic – been forced to "get in between" colleagues and angry patients, or that people attending A&E don't seem to understand that wearing a mask and social distancing remains a vital way of keeping vulnerable people safe, is horrifying. 

Heidi's message to remember that medics are human too is essential. As a reporter, elements of the pandemic have hit home more than others. For example, the weeks where there was always a Covid-related obituary, or thinking back to our work when we were first able to see the case numbers rising in a way that signalled something unprecedented and scary was happening. 

But by and large this job is not one where we routinely have to watch people die. The stakes are so high in A&E and our doctors and nurses are always under the sort of pressure most of us cannot imagine. 

So the least we can do is treat them with respect. The government should ensure it always pays them well, and do so before it faces national outrage, but our part is to have a sliver of empathy for people who go through so much. 

Doctors and nurses shouldn't be scared to go to work. What they do is hard enough without some idiot barging in and trying to punch them.