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  • Kate Haskell

Behind the scenes

A day in a Devon Life: Accident and Emergency consultant Chris Manlow

14:52 19 January 2016

In a new series throughout 2016 in Devon Life, Kate Haskell celebrates the people that make Devon work. This month: Accident and Emergency consultant Chris Manlow

First published January 2016 in Devon Life

Pictures by Matt Austin

From TV programmes such as Casualty, ER and the latest offering from Channel 4, 24 hours in A&E, there is a certain fascination with the drama and, quite literally, life and death situations that occur every day in hospitals all over the country.

Meeting with Chris Manlow at Torbay Hospital, South Devon’s main hospital, was a privilege and an experience as we went behind the scenes at one of the busiest A&E departments in the county. As we wander through the department Chris tells me this is relatively quiet part of the day although such things are rare nowadays: “It used to be that we would have peaks and troughs throughout the year and, indeed, the day, but in recent years it is busy every day of the year all day long.”

There is no doubting the hard work and ultimately team work that is needed to work in such an environment. Chris continues: “It is very emotionally demanding. We do have some really tough days but most days you can leave with a smile on you face knowing that you have done something today and if you’ve managed to treat a patient and get them better then that carries you through the bad times.

“But we have such an amazing and committed team here at Torbay where we have an unspoken understanding and support for each other and that just pulls the team together. We have such highs and lows in a very demanding job but I’m so proud to work with the team here.”

The National Health Service as a whole comes in for criticism especially at times such as Christmas where the world and its mother descends on most A&E departments, leading to unbearable waiting times, but in times of crisis there is nothing to beat it.

So I’m interested as to how we the patient can help ease the pressure on an already stretched service. Chris reveals: “The internet has played its part in increasing the numbers through the doors; many people research and convince themselves of an illness because whilst there are many reputable and reliable sources on the internet there are equally some very bad ones.

“I totally understand in a 24-hour society why people don’t want to wait to get an appointment for their GP but in most cases this is often the best person to see as they know your history and can prescribe the best treatment. Not forgetting Devon Doctors and of course the non-emergency number 111. It can be bewildering for people to know where to go as everyone knows 999 or A&E but for minor conditions those other services are very useful.”

Accident and Emergency is relatively young speciality compared to many others having only been in existence since the 1970s but and Chris believes strongly in the great strides that have been made in recent years: “We can do so much more for patients and the range of treatments available is much greater. With the quality of care in terms of trauma such as heart problems etc it means that in the last 20 years the chances of surviving such an event has changed enormously.”

For such a vocational career Chris didn’t set out to be a doctor at first: “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at school and after my A-levels I got a job in London in the city which was interesting but it got to a point where I thought I can’t do this every day, I wanted to do something that would make a difference and contribute something so I went back to college and re-trained.”

As a consultant at Torbay Hospital since 2005 Chris makes the most that Devon has to offer when it comes to letting off steam after work: “I love mountain biking over Dartmoor with the family. We’re so lucky to have so many opportunities here to be outdoors as we love surfing and kayaking and it’s a good way to be together in such a beautiful county.”

In any job there are moments of hilarity and none more so I imagine than in an department that deals with all walks of life but Chris is very discreet: “We all could all tell a few stories but most of them are unrepeatable – let’s just say nothing surprises me anymore!”

Chris off duty... some fascinating facts

1: I am never happier than when climbing up or sliding down a mountain.

2: I once rode a mountain bike across Borneo for to raise money for charity.

3: Playing the piano is a release from the rigours of the job but at heart I am a frustrated drummer.

4: I once managed to parachute straight onto a runway which was in use.

5: I cannot live without books or music.

6: To help me relax I sometimes run marathons.

7: Like most men I would like to own my own microbrewery.

8: I am afraid of snakes and was almost bitten by one of the world’s most venomous.

Five fascinating facts you didn’t know about Torbay Hospital A&E

1: Torbay A&E department attendances for 2014/15 totalled 78,162.

2: Average miles walked by an A&E nurse in a 12-hour shift = 12.

3: There are 78 nurses in Torbay A&E, seven of them have been there more than 20 years and a further four have been there more than ten years.

4: Daily the department sees an average of 230 patients, with an average of 60 of them arriving via ambulance.

5: Results from a recent Friends and Family Test show that 100% of those who responded would recommend A&E’s service to their friends and family.

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