If no one listens to us, the NHS will face its own Grenfell-style disaster

All we know is that the victim is young, female and unconscious. Hit by a lorry, we’ve been told, while walking through town. We’re poised and waiting in gloves and gowns when the paramedics burst through the swing doors. We descend as one and, in a matter of seconds, we’ve cut her clothes away. She’s naked but for her underwear, a tangle of wires and tubes, and the stiff plastic collar protecting her neck. There’s no blood, no bruising, no twisted limbs.

Unless you noticed the trace of clear fluid from her nostrils, you’d never guess a collision with a 12-tonne truck has delivered her here, to A&E. But that liquid – the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes and protects the brain – signals a blow to her head of such force, it has fractured her skull into pieces.

As I set about stabbing her veins with needles, her flawlessness unnerves me. Her 15-year-old body has the suppleness and beauty of the very young. She should be gossiping with friends, sitting GCSEs, dreaming big for her future, anything but lying on cheap cotton sheets with, as her scans would go on to reveal, catastrophic brain damage.

Nothing brings home the capriciousness of life to a junior doctor like me quite like A&E. Road traffic collisions, falls from rooftops, drownings. The accidents strike without reason or mercy and no one is spared. But there is one kind of death that hits harder than most. The kind that – far from being a random act of chance – has been foreseen, and that might have been prevented.

The death toll from Grenfell Tower – put at 80 to date – is so shocking in part because of earlier warnings from residents, fire experts and MPs alike that our tower blocks are vulnerable to disastrous blazes. Until we know the precise causes of the blaze, we cannot conclude for certain that any deaths were avoidable. But there are disturbing parallels between Grenfell and the state of the NHS. Like the residents of Grenfell Tower, NHS staff have warned repeatedly that the government’s drive to cut costs will end up costing lives. Arguably, this has already happened. Yet ministers continue to ignore our warnings

Full story in The Guardian, 12 July 2017