On a particular average Monday last October, the St Mary's Hospital, London, is on red alert - meaning certain wards are full to capacity - and intensive care has only one bed left.

Professor George Hanna has reserved it for the recovery of his patient, Simon, 67, after an operation to remove a malignant tumour from his oesophagus. Simon's operation was already previously postponed because of a red-bed situation, and the operating window after his chemotherapy is closing.

However, 78-year-old Janice, has just been blue-lighted down from Norwich for an emergency op on a ruptured aneurysm in her aorta, and will also need the last bed if she survives the journey and if vascular surgeon Richard Gibbs operates successfully.

Another trauma comes in, an attempted suicide via hanging. He may need the bed as well. Simon Ashworth, the consultant in charge of the ICU faces a difficult decision and says, "It does feel to me like the elastic is a bit nearer to breaking now than perhaps it ever was."

Documentary highlights pressing NHS crisis

This all-too-familiar scene was shown on Hospital, a six-part documentary series that follows frustrated doctors, often complaining about not being able to do their jobs right, along the busy hospital corridors. But it highlights the pressing humanitarian NHS crisis that days before, British prime minister Theresa May was forced to deny, following comments from British Red Cross, which has been consistently helping it cope with the demand.

In a bid to help the failing system, the NHS is looking at drafting hundreds of doctors from India and Pakistan to plug a spiralling crisis in A&E departments, health officials say. The scheme is expected to start in Greater Manchester, with the first 20 medics to be flown from India this year. These medics are junior doctors, who have finished basic training but are still acquiring specialist skills and have yet to qualify as a consultant.

Much like in the documentary, the region's eight A&E departments have been under severe strain in recent weeks especially due to staffing shortages. Last November, a report by the Commons health select committee also warned that A&E departments needed at least 8,000 doctors - currently there are only 5,300- to cope with the rise of A&E admissions.

Many hospitals reliant on locums

Officials in charge of the plans said the scheme, which is backed by Health Education England, could be expanded in respond to the nationwide shortages of A&E doctors across the country. Andrew Foster, trust chief executive said the region's A&E departments were now "very reliant on locums" and only had two or three "middle grade" when most trusts needed around 10 to 12.

"We are talking about the possibility of getting 200 [trainees] from India and the same number from Pakistan, said Mr Foster, who was formerly Department of Health director of human resources. He also said the plans could form part of a national recruitment exercise.

Under the new scheme, the NHS will pay £16,000 to train each recruit, excluding their salary. The middle grade doctors will be placed in emergency departments for two to three years while completing their training in emergency medicine, before returning to India.

"The relationship benefits both the UK - as it helps to fill an immediate need - and the doctors themselves who gain access to high quality training and a unique skills set," said Ged Byrne, director of education and quality for Health Education England in the North West.

NHS also recruiting GPs from EU to address staff shortages

The NHS is also offering GPs from the EU a guaranteed annual starting salary of £70,000 - up to £90,000 - and a "generous relocation package" to move to England to work. They hope to recruit 500 family doctors under the scheme, to solve the recruitment crisis.

The successful applicants will be given 12 weeks of paid training at a campus in Poland first, including crash courses in English language, culture and the ways of the NHS system and help with registering with the General Medical Council.

The government has also vowed to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020, 10% from overseas. But the outlook seems dim as Brexit has cast some doubt over the trusts' plans with recruiters warning that the referendum result would put off potential applicants.

Back in St Mary's A&E, Janice survived the journey, so Simon was sent home, again. But he was granted an operation the next day, which was successful, and he responded well.

All seems well, but a few weeks later, Simon developed the rare blood and immune disorder hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) - commonly associated with cancer, infections or autoimmune disorders - and passed on. One can only wonder if Simon's operation was done as scheduled, would his outcome have been brighter? MIMS

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