Leading the way

Richard Graham

10 / 3 / 2015 11am

Surgeon Commander Richard Graham, is a consultant radiologist for Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust. In 2006, he became a member of the Royal Naval Reserves Medical Branch. Here, Richard shares his experiences as a reservist, the skills this has given him and how he is applying these within his trust

My name is Dr Richard Graham. I am a consultant radiologist and joint clinical lead at Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust. Since 2006, I have also been a surgeon commander in the Royal Naval Reserves (RNR) Medical Branch.

I’ve gained much from my work with the reserves. I am a faculty member and course director of the battlefield advanced trauma life support course. This pre-hospital care course, using lessons learnt, has made a significant contribution to world-leading survival outcomes in Afghanistan by ensuring strict treatment protocols are followed. The course emphasises the ‘platinum 10 minutes’, the immediate period after injury when simple interventions can make a massive contribution to the survival of battlefield injured personnel. Many of the techniques taught are now used in NHS ambulance trusts and emergency departments nationwide.

I was compulsory mobilised in 2010 as a radiologist and the radiology clinical director for Operation HERRICK 12, working at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. It was one of the busiest Afghan tours. This was medicine I never seen before.  I saw more trauma in my first week than I had seen in the ten previous years with the NHS.  I have never seen such great teamwork anywhere with every member of the hospital focused on aiming for the best possible patient outcome. I was again mobilised in the same role in 2012 for HERRICK 17. 

I was at Camp Bastion when we installed two new 64 slice CT scanners with the help of the defence head of radiology. The novel method we developed for injecting intravenous contrast (the dye that helps show up abnormalities on the scan) was based on an existing protocol and aided the detection of both arterial and organ injuries simultaneously. As a result of the work of military radiologists in Afghanistan, this method has since been adopted in most NHS trauma centres.

In 2012, I was appointed head of the RNR medical branch.  I undertake these duties, which involve leading the RNR doctors and nurses nationally, alongside my NHS career. This strategic role has taught me a lot and helped my strategic thinking in the NHS, for example, when recently writing my NHS department’s five-year plan.

I have been well supported by my NHS trust, particularly in not objecting to me being mobilised twice in rapid succession.  This is more frequent than usual. 

The Naval Reserves has helped in developing me into the clinical leader I am today.  Similar training in leadership would have been expensive for the NHS.  I have been fortunate to help introduce lessons learnt in trauma care from Afghanistan into the NHS.  I feel reserve service and NHS practice are symbiotic and I would encourage anyone with an interest, however uncertain, to make contact with one of the services.  

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