The Emergency Care Voice Rescued from a Sea of Politics

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Written & edited by Anisa Jafar, James Chan, Joanna Quinn, Erin Hamill & Angharad Spencer-Matewere

A month and a half has passed since the Hamas attack killing an estimated 1,200 Israeli civilians which led to the ongoing killing of over 11,000 Palestinian civilians (including more than 4500 children) living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by the Israeli army. UN institutions, special rapporteurs, and all major humanitarian organisations have been calling loudly for a ceasefire, citing disproportionality and breaches in international law. This blog article from GECCo on 1st November 2023 asked the question as to why our EM voice has not been louder and clearer – a question even more pressing as we hear of EM colleagues having their voice censored on the subject.

The following article has been reproduced for St Emlyn’s with permission from all authors.

Emergency care practitioners are known for creating order from chaos, being pragmatic amidst difficult circumstances, advocating for patients and being bold when others cannot.  We are proud to treat without judgment, cut through the noise and aren’t afraid to call out our colleagues when we think the direction of care isn’t right.

As healthcare professionals, we are inextricably bound to addressing anything that challenges or threatens health and wellbeing. For some of us, this means providing healthcare in some of the most difficult environments in the world, facing unimaginable scenes of casualties of war without a means to provide care, and increasingly, finding our places of work and our colleagues to be direct targets of violence.

For those of us spared the pain of facing this desperate work head on, we seek ways to support our colleagues and their patients. Sometimes this is via remote advice, by spotlighting the issue or by adding our weight to the wider voice calling for an end to military action.

Paralleling extensive media and political coverage, the UK emergency care voice was strong and clear in 2021 and 2022 when conflict escalated in Myanmar and Ukraine. It was quiet, alongside the media and UK political system, when Sudan was collapsing into civil war in the summer of 2023. And now, faced daily with international voices calling for an immediate ceasefire following a disastrous escalation of the violence in Gaza, every media outlet is flooding us with stories of the suffering of a population (and healthcare system) under siege and yet the UK emergency care voice sounds faint .  It’s not that we “never speak out” on these issues – we did in 2021 and 2022.

Today, we are faced with a situation where many emergency care practitioners feel that the UK more broadly is lacking in political leadership calling for peace. This makes the voices of healthcare professionals all the more important, to urgently call for peace and compassion when so few others seem willing to do so. Like it or not, our voice is in danger of becoming selective and it’s hard not to question whether what we speak out or keep quiet about, is being politically influenced. 

IFEM joint statement signed by multiple EM societies, making no direct reference to the current humanitarian disaster

As emergency care practitioners, many of our duties of care can be seen reflected in the principles of humanitarianism. Neutrality and impartiality are set side by side with humanity and operational independence. The principle of humanity sees us strive to alleviate suffering, especially amongst the most vulnerable. We are not politicians, military leaders, or experts in international law. However we can find a very clear voice to challenge injustice and immorality.

Who will argue it being morally wrong to attack innocent people going about their daily lives?

Who will argue it being morally wrong to injure and fatally wound children?

Who will argue it being morally wrong to deprive a population of their basic needs like water?

Who will argue it being morally wrong to take civilians hostage?

Who will argue it being morally wrong when healthcare workers are having to risk the lives of critically ill patients by moving them from the only facility left to support them?

Who will argue it being morally wrong when humanitarian assistance and medical supplies are blocked?

We can stand up and have a voice without being partisan. These are universal truths which do not require us to dig deep to understand: we must stop conflating issues, calling everything “complex” or “delicate”  and feeling the need to be silent.  As emergency care practitioners in our day to day practice, simply because something might seem difficult to do or to say, we should not shy away from doing or saying it. We find courage, we find the right words and the right tone and we act with integrity and honesty. We care, we advocate and we support. This is not a time to stand back and keep quiet, it is a time to add to the collective voice from all corners of the world calling for a ceasefire: one step which will immediately and indisputably prevent further human suffering.

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Cite this article as: Anisa Jafar, "The Emergency Care Voice Rescued from a Sea of Politics," in St.Emlyn's, November 24, 2023,

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