Listen Now: Surgical Spirit Episode 1 – Dr. Shan Hussain

Surgical Spirit Episode 1 Cover Image - Dr. Shan Hussain

Great news! The first ever episode of my new podcast, Surgical Spirit, is now available for you to enjoy.

Throughout this series, I’ll be meeting and talking with a fantastic range of expert guests about all things healthcare and wellbeing.

Whether it’s the hidden underbelly of life inside a medical industry that wears staff to the bone every day, why changes in mindset can positively affect almost every aspect of your daily life, insider looks at the fitness industry, how diet and nutrition contribute to wellness, or even the joys of creativity, culture and music – plus a whole ton more…

You’ll find it all laid bare in this serious with the generous dosage of irreverent humour, fun, and critical thought the Third Eye Doctor prescribes.

In this launch episode, I’m joined by Dr. Shan Hussain, author of The Big Prescription: Balancing The Three Principles of Enduring Health. Click here to listen to the full episode now – or read on for a quick written excerpt from the show.


Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: You teach a lot – I was gonna say teach your clients, but coaching is different from teaching. What would you say being a good teacher is about, in your eyes?

Dr. Shan Hussain: Understand the needs of the student, really. With connecting and understanding the needs of the student and having a good approach and a good style which is totally honest and transparent. It’s interesting that I had a school reunion recently… one of my friends, my best friends, who I hadn’t seen for a few years – he’s now a teacher, a French teacher, which I found quite amusing because he was quite boisterous and lessons and sometimes difficult. So I had to ask him this question – ‘how would you manage a student like you?’ And he had a very simple answer – he just said it’s really really simple: just don’t be an idiot!

He didn’t say ‘idiot’, just to be clear – he said something a little bit more offensive – but kids are really smart. They can see a teacher for what they are, and they can pick up on behaviours they don’t like or that don’t resonate with them, and if they see that and then they will reject your teachings. They won’t have any interest or any time for you, so I think it’s about building that relationship and nurturing it, and making sure there’s trust, that you’re totally honest and transparent with a genuine desire to help people.

Discussing the strongest influences Dr. Hussain encountered during his time in healthcare…

Dr. Shan Hussain: There was this one A&E consultant that I worked with, who I was actually just talking with my wife about today, who was just tremendous. It wasn’t as much his knowledge and his experience but it was more to do with his presence, his physical presence. If things were just going crazy and we were in the recess bay in casualty and everyone was just running around trying to help this patient who’s clearly in a life or death situation – this gentleman would just need to walk into the room and just having that presence, people would start to feel calm. And he wouldn’t just move people out of the way and say ‘I’m the consultant get out of the way.’ He would just gently approach the situation and take responsibility and support the team, ensure everyone knows what they’re doing and everything – and it was really inspirational to learn from someone like that. Not just learning his knowledge and his wisdom, but also his mannerisms – his behaviour, his style style, his traits, his personality, his qualities, and his character. So I think that he was probably the biggest influence I had in terms of my professional approach.

He had the most incredible bedside manner. Just looking at how he’d engage with patients, and talk and communicate with them, and make them smile and reassure them – tell them it’s gonna be alright, really connecting with them, making time with them. These are the most valuable things that I learnt about being doctor – much more powerful. You’re not going to get that kind of stuff from a textbook. You gotta go out and find the people who do it, and spend time with them to really actually absorb their approach. So yes, I think that was my greatest influence and I’m kind of saddened that these elements of being a doctor nowadays, they’re not taught, and I think they need to be. People need to have that education if they’re not already doing it, and I think nowadays this seems to be such a sort of bureaucratic, left-brained, box-ticking approach to medicine which is, unfortunately – well, some would argue fortunately – is probably going to be replaced by artificial intelligence very soon. I really hope that so we can start to spread that authenticity back, and bring in the human element of caring and compassion for our patients.

On Dr. Hussain’s own experience with disillusionment, feeling driven away from healthcare, the lack of support from colleagues and authoritative bodies, and what could possibly be done to repair this ongoing problem:

Dr. Shan Hussain: It was actually about a year ago. Very recently. I think, referring to what I was talking about earlier, simplicity comes from the removal of obstacles and there are a lot of organisations in place right now such as an NHSE, various CCGs, that are actually creating more obstacles with the delivery of healthcare which is very, very frustrating for doctors in terms of what we have to do.

It is creating more and more unnecessary work which is taking us away from patient care – so yes, I became annoyed with that more than anything else, and I challenged it and I questioned it. And I think the real ironic thing was that all the GPS I spoke to completely agreed with me but none of them were actually prepared to support me or back me, or come with me to take the frustrations and the general irritations were accumulating, and to present them to the stake holders who can actually do something about it.

So that became… in addition to an already difficult situation… that became even more disheartening and disillusioning. So yes, I think there are a lot of problems there and I think there’s a few different ways to describe it, whether it’s learned helplessness or wilful blindness, but you know ultimately I think doctors around the country need to remember how much power they have right now and how that is really being surrendered on a regular basis. These organisations, including the GMC, BMA, CCGs, CQCs, NHS England – we don’t work for them, they work for us. We need to remind ourselves of that every day because ultimately if every doctor on the planet decided to disengage with CQC they would cease to exist. And if every doctor on the planet or in the country said ‘you know what, GMC, you’ve hiked your fees up by a thousand percent over the last two decades – in exchange for what? To keep my name on a register? How can you justify that and what are you doing to support us in these current situations?’

So yes there are a lot of frustrations for doctors right now, but I think at the same time doctors need to take a bit of responsibility about this, and actually recognise we’re the ones who are agreeing to these things. We’re the ones who are inviting a lot of this stress. What can we do about it, how can we fix it? I’m always open to discussing remedies to fixing it. I’m never roped into, you know, sitting in a forum debating or arguing, complaining about how bad things are. Nobody wants to hear that. We all know about things are. How are we going to make things better? I think probably the quickest way to do that will be to start to remove some of these ridiculous obstacles to care that have been put into place by senior managers, bureaucrats and doctors in high positions of responsibility who actually don’t practice clinical medicine anymore.

Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: So is it as simple as that?

Dr. Shan Hussain: Well I think it’s a good starting point. We’ve got to remember… how can we possibly take care of 70 million people here in the UK if we’re not really taking care of ourselves? If we’re actually agreeing to all the stresses that are being put upon us? I mean, twenty years ago, a GP… people would see their GP on average twice a year, and now it’s seven times a year. We haven’t had a similar increase in funding, and at the same time inflation has gone up. Our overall remuneration has gone down, and so we’re working harder for less money that’s not taking us as far. And we’re wondering why we’re stressed!

So I think solutions need to be made, or at least discussed, at a high level here instead of a lot of the rhetoric that we hear from the BMA who are supposedly trying to represent doctors in terms of what’s happening right now. I actually decided to take a break from the NHS – at the time I decided I was leaving and I wasn’t coming back – but in actual fact I missed it greatly.


Click the link below to visit the Surgical Spirit Podcast page and hear all this, plus much, much more from Dr. Hussain about his experiences in healthcare, his book, The Big Prescription, and the work he does to help doctors and medical staff take great care of themselves while they take care of others.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Third Eye Doctor YouTube channel so you never miss out on a new episode. You can find links to all platforms hosting the podcast at the main hub page linked below. Enjoy!

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