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Inside the mind of Redbridge’s chief neurosurgeon

PUBLISHED: 15:00 03 April 2016

Dr Sreeman Andole with patient Peter Say

Dr Sreeman Andole with patient Peter Say

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Our reporter met BHRUT’s chief neuroscientist to discuss life as a brain surgeon

A day in the life of a neurosurgeon

My day starts at 7am, when I check my calendar and make sure I know what my priorities are for that day. Then we have a quick assessment centre with the beds in the hospital and how our division is performing, so we take stock of that. Then I go on to my clinical jobs, which can be running a clinic or hyper acute session where patients are coming in for treatment or I’m discussing options with families. The conditions I deal with have significant mortality rates, so I’m often dealing with deaths and there’s a lot of empathy needed with those patients’ families. You cannot rush these things because it is a massive change in their lives that needs to be handled sensitivelyo that’s my day.

I am introduced to Dr Sreeman Andole in the foyer of Queen’s Hospital, on a Friday afternoon. It’s National Brain Week, and I’m here to learn a bit more about the neuroscientist and his department’s work.

Dr Andole is the divisional director of specialist services for Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), as well as their lead clinician on stroke cases. So he is a busy man.

As we get to his office he points out a large whiteboard on one wall, with different coloured pens scribbled all over it in a confusing flowchart of doctors’ names and impossible-to-pronounce brain conditions.

As Dr Andole points to the board, he jokingly says: “This is the work we do.”

So what he is most proud of during his eight-year stay at BHRUT?

“Just that our hospital provides a world-class service, right on your doorstep. And that’s why I think we should be proud of ourselves.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re happy or complacent.

“We want to continue to do well because we know that in a changing economy and a changing world there is no such thing as ‘we stop here’.”

That’s something our conversation keeps coming back to, the challenges faced by the NHS and, by extension, his team of 30 consultants and junior doctors at the neuroscience centre.

At a time when budget cuts and austerity have become the norm, does a service as costly as neuroscience really stand a fair chance?

He replies: “Here at the trust we don’t believe that quality and finance are two sides of the same coin. We don’t believe that to increase the quality of someone’s care you need to spend excessively on it.

“We are always trying to see what efficiency gains we can make, through improving clinical pathways, working with partners on collaborative work, and improving through whatever new methods are on the horizon.”

BHRUT’s neuroscience department recently featured in the national news for performing an experimental

surgery that cured a woman of life-long tremors, but Dr Andole’s own highlight is something a lot more profound.

“One of the most life-changing things that happens to patients is when they suffer brain damage when they’re young, because their ability to contribute to society and their own family changes completely,” he tells me, before going into detail about a 30-year-old cab driver who was left unable to work after a stroke.

The average length of time Queen’s would keep someone after a stroke is four to 12 weeks, but Dr Andole and his team spent three months talking the cabbie through physical therapy and other treatments, until eventually, while unable to get back behind the wheel, he was able to open his own business and support his family again.

Dr Andole said: “I always think, if the patient didn’t turn up here when he did, and if we didn’t go above and beyond to make his recovery as promising as possible, what we would have seen was a 30-year-old man with huge damage to his brain and no chance of recovery.”

As a father to a 10-year-old daughter, the neuroscientist knows that finding a balance between his work and his personal life has sometimes proved

difficult.

He said: “ I’ve been lucky that all the team that work for me are really helpful, and that spurs you on to do more, but that also means that you need your family to understand the importance of what you do and why you work long hours, and I’m extremely fortunate to have that.

“I think that’s the key though, you’re always

prepared to go the extra mile when you enjoy what you do and you’re well supported.”


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