Building a Culture of Kindness in the NHS

My morning surgery began today with a patient of mine, who works as  Health Care Assistant (or Band 3) in our local acute hospital trust. As we find across the board in the NHS right now, there are pressures in her department with under-staffing and a very high and demanding work load. She started her day in tears, telling me about the sleepless nights, but even more so about the lack of support she is feeling in her work environment. She feels unable to understand why huge fees are paid to find locum consultants, when posts are not covered, but money cannot be found for the absence of staff at her level, when the numbers are down, leading to an increased pressure and low morale.

 

Now, this is not a criticism of the acute trust we partner with every day, because I actually know all too well the situation here, how complex it can be and just how dedicated to caring for staff the leadership of the trust are. However, when we read in the press today about sickness absence for stress among paramedics, and if I were to detail more stories about the number of cases I am currently dealing with as a GP about stress in the workplace for ALL grades of staff in the NHS and social care setting, then we have to face up to the fact that we have a problem. Stress in the workplace and low morale in our teams is not a problem we can afford to ignore. It not only causes high sickness rates, which then increases the pressure on teams, with knock on financial implications to the system; it also causes significant compassion fatigue (i.e. staff are literally less able to care about or for their patients), because they are emotionally overwhelmed, under-resourced and therefore become more numb, disengaged and unkind and this is detrimental to patient care.

 

The problem is actually really complex, but it is, in my opinion, primarily cultural, and particularly affects the lower pay-grades of staff, because they feel and are in fact less able, to influence change. If we do not develop a culture of kindness towards our own teams and have a sea-change within our working environments in terms of how we care for each other, we will only see the problems go from bad to worse. So, how do we create a culture of kindness, a culture of honour, a culture of wellbeing?

 

I would like to suggest six things (all beginning with H – the 6Hs), which are fairly simple, but make a massive difference to how teams function and therefore the morale within those teams:

 

  1. Humanity – First, we must recognise that hierarchy has the inbuilt tendency to de-humanise us. As we get higher in the pyramidal systems in which we work, we can easily lose our humility and compassion towards others as we have to cope with the greater demands from “above us” and if we’re not careful we can turn into slave drivers. Top down, controlling leadership is detrimental to good morale and stifles teams from working effectively.  There is a famous, ancient parable (told in the New Testament) about an unmerciful manager, who owed a huge amount of money to his master/CEO. The CEO called him to account and threatened to fire him. However, he begged for mercy and the master cancelled his debt and gave him a fresh chance. However, this same manager then went and found all the people who owed something to him, and instead of paying forward the mercy he had received, treated his own debtors shamefully, despite their begging and pleading for mercy. When the CEO found out about this, the manager was duly fired. I wonder how often we tolerate ‘bullying’ by managers, because they ‘run a tight ship’, without calculating the cost of this style of management on our teams and the patients we serve? Changing culture is hard. Even if the CEO sets a good culture, any one of us can bring a negative influence in the area we work. We have to make a conscious choice to keep our kindness switched on. As we climb the ladder of responsibility, we must continue to act with humanity. We must also remember that it works the other way round – we can start dehumanising those in leadership positions ‘above us’, or those who work in different teams. We make terribly unfair assumptions about people all the time. A little bit of understanding, kindness and compassion goes a HUGE way in treating each other with kindness instead of suspicion.
  2. Humility – For those in leadership, there can be a tendency to forget that when we were in in ‘lower’ positions, we often felt the same low morale and pressure from those ‘above us’. Leadership requires that we keep our love and compassion switched on towards those who we now lead. This means we must really learn to listen, and that means having the humility to recognise where we have been getting it wrong. If we are not prepared to change, then we are not really listening. It takes courage to create a culture in which we can receiving a challenge from those in our team and be able to make a change and not just use our position to squash the person who dared to speak out. It takes even more guts to admit where we have been wrong, say sorry and move forward differently.
  3. Help – one of the very worst things that can happen in any team dynamic is when we hear the words ‘it’s not my job’. I hear it so often and it makes me sad! We must never think we are above any task – whether that is cleaning up a mess, wiping a patient’s bum or picking up some litter. We must simply help each other out. But we also need the humility to admit when we are struggling and actually ask for help. We encounter terrible and unspeakable trauma at times, or may simply be going through tough personal circumstances. Sometimes, we need the humility to recognise where we are not coping, where we are struggling, when we’re not functioning and ask for help. And when we ask for help we need to have the confidence that we will encounter the humanity of those around us to help us at our time of need.
  4. Honour – Sometimes a situation may not be able to change, but in these situations the very worst thing leaders can do is close ranks, shut communication down and raise the levels of demand. No, vulnerability, openness and honesty, sharing the reality of the situation and communicating clearly why things cannot change currently at least allows the team to pull together and face the situation as one. However, there must be a very clear challenge here – Yanis Varoufakis puts it so well in his book “And The Weak Suffer What they Must” – we have to remember just how crippling powerlessness can be. Like my patient this morning, she has no access to the ‘powers’ or to the ‘purse strings’. She cannot up and leave, she simply can’t afford to, and so she works under huge pressure for very little pay, powerless to enact change, other than to put in place her own boundaries. A cultural shift towards a culture of kindness is to ensure that those with the least ‘honour’ are treated the most honourably. Leadership is about being able to take the hit, not self-protectionism at the cost of ones team. It is absolutely amazing just how far the words ‘Thank You’ can go, to keeping this sense of honour alive.
  5. Health – (by health, I mean wellbeing in its widest sense) – we have to actually care for the people around us. We have developed a culture in the NHS and social care where we will do all we can to care for our patients/clients, but will break the backs of ourselves or our teams in the process, which is actually entirely self-defeating! It is impossible to care for others well, when you are feeling exhausted and broken! I have said it on this blog before and I will say it many times again: we have to develop a sense of the health and wellbeing of the people in our teams. We need time in the craziness and business of each day to stop the mad rushing, be still and take notice/be mindful/be heartful. We all need time to get up off our chairs and stretch and be more active – #runamile every day (it only takes 15 minutes). We need time to connect with each other (do we really take time to know the people we spend an inordinate amount of time with and alongside and check they are actually doing OK?), to eat well, stay hydrated and keep learning, so we don’t feel overwhelmed. Building these as an absolute priority into our daily work routines is vital, especially as pressures increase. The tendency is that when the going gets tough, our health gets significantly worse. We must learn to protect this in the midst of our business, or we will suffer the consequences in multiple ways.
  6. Hope – there is an ancient proverb that says: “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but hope coming is a tree of life.”  Hopelessness takes root when we feel that nothing can ever change and we feel powerless to influence anything. Hope is born when we develop ways of working in which teams can work together on solutions to the problems they are encountering, rather than being dictated to from on high in a unrelational way. Hope is about being able to sense that the future is alive with possibility. It is a life line when things are tough, when the tunnel is long and dark – just a little glimpse of light – and then faith builds that together we can get there.

 

Not difficult. Actually pretty straight forward. We don’t need unkindness or low morale in our work places. We don’t want to be suffering with compassion fatigue because we are physically and emotionally drained and running on empty. We really can create the kind of culture we want to see and experience in the NHS and social care – a culture of kindness – sounds nice doesn’t it?! All it takes is for us to remember humanity, humility, help, honour, health and hope.

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The Morecambe Bay Mile A Day!

Every day in Morecambe Bay 2000 children aged 4-11 run a mile a day (how fantastic is that?!). Inspired initially by the story from Stirling, the word  is spreading and we now have another 3000 children starting across Lancashire. Our early data shows that there has been a dramatic improvement in the children’s health, from a physical, mental and educational perspective. 15 minutes a day for a healthier, happier child who is able to sleep better and concentrate more in class – it’s an absolute no brainer. And what is more – if it’s good for the kids, then it’s good for us all. We will all be more physically healthy, more mentally well and be more productive in our work if we just take a break (especially in that post-lunch lull) and do some exercise! Who amongst can’t spare 15 minutes a day? And for those who can’t run, there are other alternatives. Some of our kids here are cycling or walking or even using hand bikes according to their physical ability, but everyone is taking part. Even on rainy days, they just get out there, or if it’s especially vile, they do some aerobics or zumba in the classroom.

 

The challenge is this: if kids 4-11 can move a mile a day…..can’t we all? What if it became part of our culture, here in Morecambe Bay and further afield that everyone is given space in their educational or working day to run or move one mile each day? One mile – 15 minutes – easy!

 

Today, Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, will highlight that we are now half way through the 5 year period he launched to help transform the NHS. Across the UK, there are now 44 STPs (these stand for Sustainability and Transformation Plans). In order for the NHS to be sustainable in the future, there needs to be some transformation – it’s simple really. There are plenty of conversations happening about how the system itself can work more efficiently and many new ways of working are being trialled and forged. However, we all also need to transform the way we are living, as our current lifestyles are making the NHS have to deal with pressures it simply can’t cope with anymore. Part of our work as an STP in Lancashire is to work with our population to encourage us all to be more healthy and well in our daily lives. It isn’t rocket science. Simple, small steps go a long way to making significant changes to our health. The 4-11 year olds have laid down the gauntlet – one mile a day – a simple first step that packs a real punch. The NHS and City Council will be following in their wake. One of our headteachers lost 3 stone in 6 months just by following their lead…….let’s get moving, let’s be healthier and let’s have an NHS that is therefore more sustainable for the future. The Morecambe Bay Mile a Day could easily become the UK Mile a Day. (Also see The Daily Mile Foundation).

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The Art of Hosting Good Conversations – Morecambe

Here is a video about a brilliant couple of days a bunch of us had in Morecambe, talking about how we discover what it is to be healthy and be part of a social movement to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone:

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Our Nation’s Biggest Public Health Problem

The subject of this blog is sensitive and difficult. It may stir up some difficult issues or memories for you, as you read. If this happens, then please take time to seek the help you need. I believe this blog and ones to follow might be some of the most important I have written to date.

 

UnknownI am currently reading a phenomenal book, sent to me in the post, by a dear friend of mine, who is a trained counsellor and knowing the work I do, felt that I should read it also. The book is called “The Body Keeps the Score” by the eminent Psychiatrist, Bessel Van Der Kolk. In my humble opinion, it should be compulsory reading for every person training in any of the clinical specialities, including public health and for those working in education. The book focusses on the detailed research and work done by Van Der Kolk and others at Harvard over the last 30 years in the whole area of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), or “Disorders of Extreme Stress, Not Otherwise Specified” (DESNOS). It is not a part of our vocabulary, unfortunately, because even now, after a huge evidence base and many studies, there still remains no such psychiatric diagnosis. However, it is a hidden epidemic affecting huge numbers of our population and is the root of many of our major public health issues. So what causes this problem and just how wide spread is it? The evidence shows so strongly that the cause of CPTSD or DESNOS is Adverse Childhood Experiences, which we more starkly call Child Abuse.

 

Child abuse falls into four main categories: Physical abuse, Sexual Abuse, Verbal Abuse and Emotional abuse – usually in the form of neglect. 10% of children suffer regular verbal abuse. 25% suffer regular physical abuse. 28% of women and 16% of men have suffered sexual abuse. 16% regularly watch domestic violence. 87% of all those who suffer one type of abuse, are also abused in other ways. Each of these forms of abuseUnknown lead to major health problems later in life and studies are showing that it is not just mental health issues (many of which lead to inappropriate diagnoses like Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar Disorder and ineffective treatments) but also major physical health problems. Those who have been abused are twice as likely than others to develop cancer and four times as likely to have emphysema. The more difficult a person’s experiences, the higher the chance of developing heart, liver or lung disease at an early earlier age with much higher chances of taking more health risks with smoking, becoming overweight or having multiple sexual partners. There is good evidence to suggest a link with autoimmune diseases, such a lupus, and other complex conditions like chronic pain, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. The body cannot be separated from the mind and literally keeps the score of the internalised turmoil. So, even if the abuse happens before memories are formed, or our minds manage to forget or block out what has happened, the body simply cannot forget and sometime and in someway, the damage will show itself. Studies show that the overall cost of this appalling reality far exceed those of cancer or heart disease. In fact, eradicating child abuse would cut depression rates by over 50%, alcoholism by 66% and suicide, IV drug use and domestic violence by 75%. Antidepressants and antipsychotics are now some of our largest prescribing costs. We know this, but are doing very little about it. Perhaps it feels too big. Perhaps we don’t want to face the demons involved. Instead, we are numbing the problem, trying desperately to get people to be just functional enough to keep on serving the needs of our economic system, but we are not facing up to or dealing with this horrific problem, nor its true cost.

 

What can be done in the face of such evil? How can we develop aimages culture of compassion and restorative justice in which we can find a new way through for humanity? It isn’t getting any better. It is just as widespread and far reaching in its consequences as it was a generation ago. Is it possible for us to face up to the startling reality we face? Van der Kolk offers much hope, but it is not within the gift of the health service and social services to tackle this alone. If we are to take this issue seriously, we must embrace what Bessel refers to (at the end of chapter 2) as four fundamental truths:

 

  1. Our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another. Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring wellbeing.
  2. Language gives us the power to change ourselves and others by communicating our experiences, helping us to define what we know and to find a common sense of meaning.
  3. We have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain, through simple activities such as breathing, moving and touching – (learning to be present in our own bodies is a vital way of separating out the memories of the past which can overwhelm us at times).
  4. We can change social conditions to create environments in which children and adults can feel safe and where they can thrive.

images-1People can be healed of trauma. We need this at both an individual and corporate level. We have become so focussed on saving money, on quick fixes to ensure the NHS and Social Care System can survive, but we are ignoring the root cause of many of our ill health issues. If we are willing to face up to the truth of child abuse in our society and its long lasting and far reaching impact on overall health and wellbeing, then we might just be able to find a way through to healing and restoration of what has become an extremely broken society. In the blogs that follow, I will look at some of the ways we might find a way through this crisis of epidemic proportions. One thing we must face straight away is that we are spending our resources in the wrong places and are focussing our attention in the wrong areas. We must protect our children and help people learn how to be good parents. We must strengthen our school teachers and sense of community. We must invest in the first five years of life far more than we are doing so currently, especially those key first 12 months of bonding and attachment. Together, if we want to, with love, care, bravery and determination, we can change the future. There is hope. There is healing. Our systems are not yet designed to cope with this, but we must speak the unspeakable, break the silence and face up to the truth. The truth will set us free and enable us to develop the kind of wellbeing that every human being should be able to live within.

 

 

 

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We Need to Be Ambidextrous in Solving our Health and Social Care Conundrum

UnknownAll this week on the BBC, there has been a focus on the NHS and the crisis we are in – don’t panic Mr Mainwaring…..There is a heady mix of opinions being thrown around – Question Time became quite a furore of ideas and thoughts last night – not enough beds, not enough staff, not enough money, too much money, too many patients, too many wasted appointments, too many malingerers, too many ill people, too many old people, too many managers, too many drugs, too many drunkards, disappointed clinicians, disappointed patients, disappointed MPs, a disappointed health secretary – what are we to think and what are we to do?

 

imgresWe love the NHS because it speaks something to us about our togetherness and our commitment to health justice for all. This circular argument about money is the wrong conversation and it is beginning to have a very nasty undertone about who we might be able to blame and scapegoat in order to solve the mess we are in. Let’s be very clear. The NHS is NOT in crisis because of refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants or health tourists. I’m going to stick my neck out here – it isn’t even the fault of the current and previous health secretaries, though it would be easy to play the blame game that way too. The NHS is in crisis, because the entire Western World is in crisis! Our economic systems are broken and our political systems are pretty defunct. We have built our nation state on the foundations of empire. We have built our economy on conquest and slavery and have used debt, violence and law to keep control….but everything is shaking.

 

There are some difficult truths for us to face up to. Are we brave enough to accept that things cannot remain as they are? Are we imagesLYB84K5V.jpgbrave enough to rewire our brains, realign our values and reimagine a different way of being together? If we accept that things simply cannot remain as they are, might we instead find one another in fresh ways and discover new ways of being in which we’re not always chasing the money, with all its strings attached, but choosing something altogether more life giving?

 

images3W7WQ07WI would suggest we need two things (an ambidextrous approach) – both of which are already happening, we just need to recognise them, fan the flames and watch the new emerge, whilst Rome burns around us.

 

The first thing emerging is a grass roots people movement around health, wellbeing and a kinder society. Think of this as the left hand. We must take a left handed approach to really listen to and engage with our communities. Many people are waking up to the fact that we are eating in ways that are unnatural and completely unhealthy for the human being. Global corporations like GSK have shoved Lucozade and Ribena down our throats and then very kindly provided the medication for the diabetes we have developed. Enough! Thankfully, peopleimagesOP6FM73O.jpg are beginning to think about how we are living and making a change. It’s a tough reality, but there is personal and corporate responsibility that we need to take. We cannot keep shoving poison into our bodies or treating them badly and expect that we will be well, or that we will be able to afford the drugs to fix us. Social movements are beginning to emerge and we need to be a part of them. Together, we can! Together we can cause corporations to change their behaviour and act in accordance with what is right, true, just, kind and loving. We can also choose to take responsibility for what we buy and how much exercise we do. Here in Morecambe Bay we are launching the Morecambe Bay Mile, encouraging everyone to move a mile a day without transport! We’re also working with our communities around diet. We’re also connecting with amazing people doing amazing things and seeing just how much kindness and goodness there is in the communities around us. Our happiness is directly linked to the quality and depth of our friendships. People being together and facing up to the issues together is absolutely key to our long term health.

 

imagesBCV6CE7Y.jpgSecondly, we must stop serving the system, re-humanise it, call it in line and cause it to serve the needs of the people and the planet (the right handed approach). Those in the health and social care system must refuse to be bullied by the powers into ways of behaving, stop thinking they have the answers and therefore coming up with another new scheme to do to people and be willing to listen to and work with the emerging social movements. This will allow us to see a society that is much more well and therefore in need of less care. But where care is needed, we have to accept that we have allowed ourselves to be competitive rather than collaborative, hierarchical instead of co-operative and our own attitudes and behaviours are stopping us from giving the compassionate care we long to deliver. We cannot make excuses. We must let go of self-protectionism. We must be willing to change the way we think and behave, breaking down walls, letting go of suspicion and cutting through red tape so that we provide the care which we can. This is happening, here in Morecambe Bay – but it’s not a quick thing. We are rediscovering the power of relationship and daring to make some bold steps into delivering care very differently – but for those of you outside the system, please understand, it takes time and feels pretty scary!

 

I believe it is possible for the NHS and Social Care System to be radically transformed at this time. It might enable us to model something for the rest of the world. That in our time of crisis, we did not sell out to the lie that the only way ahead was privatisation and insurance – (in our hearts, we know this isn’t fair and it doesn’t work for everyone). No – instead we chose to work with a grass roots people movement, calling for us all to beuntitled.png more healthy and well and we changed our ways of working to be more collaborative and kind. It is this ambidextrous approach to health and wellbeing, in which a heady mix of an invigorated people movement and a reorientated system working together for the good of everyone everywhere, might breathe hope into other parts of the world that out of the old can come something new. Maybe it is just possible that healthcare can be provided for everyone everywhere when people are brave enough to let go of old ways, embrace the brokenness of our reality and find a new way through together.

 

untitled.pngI’m telling you – it is nearly Spring time and the bulbs are beginning to break through. Can you smell the scent of something new emerging? Those rhizomal roots of the snowdrops – that interconnected underground network that shoots up its flowers, is telling us the winter of discontent is over. It’s time to turn off the radio, dial down the meta narrative of fear and instead, put on love, hope and faith, find each other, change our ways of working and step into the future we know our hearts yearn for.

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Doing the Impossible – Turning the Tide!

It’s time to do the impossible. It’s time to turn the tide.

imgres.jpgIn my last blog, I talked about the exponential potential of what could be possible if clinicians worked together in a more collaborative way. However, far more can be achieved if we work together in and with our communities to create a social movement together around being more healthy and well. I’ve talked previously about the “battle royale” that occurred between Béchamp and Pasteur over whether we should promote health or fight disease. The answer is, of course, that we need to do both, but the clinical community is not equipped with the resource or power to do it alone.

What we cannot accept, though, is our current apathy or malaise that some of the health imgres.jpgcrises we now face are too much for us to do anything about. We are in the midst of a battle, which we are currently losing and it is time to gird our loins for a turning of the tide. Here in Morecambe Bay, we have started a conversation, not just among the Clinical Community but with the wider population about how we might become the healthiest place in the UK. Yes, we mean this in a very holistic way, but there are also some specific foci we have so we can together reverse some of the appalling health statistics we are facing.

For too long, we have simply laid down and allowed exercise to be taken out of schools, whilst our kids consume a bath full of sugar every year. All the time our own work and eating habits have become significantly unhealthy. We have relied on expensive drugs to fix our problems, rather than tackling the root causes of our excesses. It has lead to 1 in every 5 pounds in the NHS being spent as a direct result of our lifestyles and 1 in 11 pounds being spent on diabetes. We say we value the NHS above anything else as a nation (maybe an issue in it’s own right…..) but we do not behave in ways that show this value to be true. We have not been brave enough to challenge the status quo and together make a wholesale change both about how we promote health and look to aggressively reverse it when things begin to go wrong.

images.jpgI suggest that within a generation, if we wanted to, we could render Type 2 Diabetes a rare diagnosis. We can do this through encouraging far more healthy lifestyles in our children and young people now, like running a mile a day and learning to eat food that doesn’t actually harm them! I believe we could significantly reduce the need for so many people to be taking medication for hypertension and diabetes now, prevent many strokes and heart attacks, by being violent towards these conditions with major changes in lifestyle, though diet and exercise, rather than the prescription of drugs, using coaching, peer support and local champions to give psychological motivation and encouragement. We are beginning to have some excellent discussions and develop some exciting plans around this.

Our NHS health checks should serve as a major motivational opportunity for someone toimgres.jpg pull themselves back from the brink of a lifetime of medication and we should use all medication reviews as a chance to help people adopt lifestyles that might reverse the need for such drugs. In the process, we would also significantly reverse our number of cancer diagnoses – many of which are linked to our lifestyle choices. We simply can’t afford for our current and failing approach to continue. We need to be braver together! And this means the NHS must be willing to partner in new ways, not only with local people, but also with businesses like the major supermarkets to help reverse our current direction towards the abyss, in which there is no longer a healthcare system that serves the needs of everyone, no matter where they come from or how much they do or don’t earn.

Don’t get me wrong! We should absolutely use medication to its fullest use for those who are at risk and have not responded to major lifestyle changes. For example, we can wage war on Atrial Fibrillation, ensuring far more appropriate use of anticoagulation, in the most cost effective and safest way, therefore preventing many life-changing strokes in the mean time. And for those who, despite lifestyle measures, still have a high blood pressure or continue with diabetes, we should not withhold medication that would prevent major issues later on. It’s just at the moment, we’re reaching for the prescription pad too readily and not looking to reverse conditions completely before they set in. We need more education out there around the early signs of cancer, so we can hit it early and reverse it’s effects when we have a better chance. Respiratory disease is another area where we could seriously make a change. We need to think of ourselves as one big respiratory team, tackling smoking, housing damp and carpeting, whilst ensuring every person has an understanding of their condition, how to use their medication effectively and what to do when things flare up. A cohesive clinical community really could deliver something special in each of these disease areas.

We could also be a great deal more effective in how we care for the frail elderly. We don’t need anywhere near as many hospital beds. We can provide care in residential and nursing homes, avoiding double payment for beds, by shifting resource out of our acute hospitals and into the community. We need to have a far more grown up conversation about why we admit people to hospital when there is very little proven benefit of doing so.

Taking a strategic shift towards a social movement for health, significant lifestyle changes and treatment only after these things have been given serious attention, but unapologetically so once they have, we can turn back this battle at the gates and change the health of this nation for generations to come. We can undo the unaffordable situation we find ourselves in and discover together a much more healthy future.

images.pngWe can absolutely do this!! It’s going to take some serious resolve and we’re going to have to withstand the fear and pressure of some pretty powerful lobbies, like the sugar, alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical giants, and perhaps even the government itself, but it is time for us to do the impossible. With love, hope and faith, we can do this! Yes we need to focus on schools and work places. Yes, we need to partner with organisations we’ve never worked with before. Yes, we need a far more effective media strategy and yes, we need to allow clinicians to work very differently. But we cannot do nothing. So let’s try something a whole lot more radical. That’s what we’re going for in Morecambe Bay – not just better care together, but better health together – you can watch and wait, and see if we sink or swim, or you can join us!

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The Extraordinary (Healing) Power of Forgiveness

images.jpgThere are many times when people come to see me, as a GP, and I cannot find a physical cause for their pain. There are various other conditions when people have what we call “medically unexplained symptoms”. For others, they can get stuck in a rut with their mental health and feel unable to get out of it. In the west, we are not as comfortable as we might be in dealing with the concept of spiritual health. Our spirit, the true essence of who we are, can also suffer damage and ill health, which in turn can lead to physical and psychological manifestations of that same pain. One of the things I have seen time and again as one contributing factor is when someone is finding it difficult to forgive a past hurt. In this vlog I talk about the great power of forgiveness in helping us to be more well. In the one after this, I will talk about how we can actually go about forgiving someone who has hurt us.

 

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A Healthier Story

So, we start 2017 with General Practice “skating on thin ice”, the NHS as a whole “creaking on the edge” and major concerns over funding and waiting times. Why don’t we step outside of that rather repetitive and boring story, and find a new one together – one that resonates far more with the ancient paths we once knew?

 

The world is changing, and not in a good way. We are becoming more separated from each other, our organisations and systems dehumanise us and we are becoming less well. The story that the ‘benevolent hand’ of the free market will work everything together for good is exposed in it’s nakedness, like the Emperor’s new clothes. The fabric of our society is unwinding as we become more disconnected from our own sense of wellbeing, our communities and the land on which we live.

 

How do we recover a sense of wellbeing? Where will we find healing for our past, present and future? How can we expand our own vision of what it means to be well, focusing not only on our physical health, but also on our mental, spiritual, social and systemic health?

 

How might the General Practice community move from being a group of health heroes, who fix people when they are unwell, to letting go of that old and unsustainable paradigm, learning instead to co-host, with others, an environment in which a community can be healthy and well? It doesn’t mean doing away with skills that have been crafted, but using them to empower others to be partakers and not only recipients. What if GPs or ICCs (Integrated Care Communities) faced up to the fact that they don’t have all the answers, nor the resources, nor the power to fix the problems in their local populations? What if they allowed themselves to become more of a part of their community, rather than separate or slightly aloof from it? What might a co-operative model look like? If every patient owned a small share of the practice and it truly ‘belonged’ to the community, just how radically might things change, without the need for huge ‘take overs’ by local hospital trusts or private healthcare firms? If we are to find a new way forward, we must all be willing to let go of what we have known and the power which we hold. We have to let go of our need to chase the money and imagine that we are like the city of Detroit, declare ourselves bankrupt, financially and spiritually and then together, break down the walls that keep us separate and find our way together.

 

When we host spaces in which communities can come together, rather than trying to be the experts who know how to fix everything, we let go of our need to be the heroes and come into a space for shared learning. As I spend time with a community of people recovering from various addictions in Morecambe, I find I don’t have the tools to fix things. However, I do find, that together there is a huge heart for a better and more healed society for everyone, so that others do not need to find themselves in the grip of addiction. We need to know less and find more corporate wisdom. We need to share our gifts and find the beauty of reciprocity – that it is in the giving and receiving of one another that we find a way forward in positive peace.

 

The future of our health and wellbeing relies far more on our interconnectedness and our community than on the systems we have built. Our systems must give way to become subservient to the longing of our hearts rather than the task masters which drive how we organise ourselves and live out our lives. Co-operative community gives us an opportunity to live something much more radically loving and kind, in which people and the planet really matter. Today is epiphany! A day in which some people with real wisdom realized that God came as a baby, weak, helpless and in need of community for health, wellbeing and development. If God is and needs community, how on earth have we become so disconnected from that story and made our whole way of being about experts and empires? Here is an epiphany for 2017. If God did not come as an imperial expert, but in weakness and humility, we need to do the same, if we are to find any hope for the future. The system will not change from the top down, it’s too invested in the broken story to be able to do so. But we, the people, can together be cogs that turn in new ways and realign ourselves with a way of being that brings better and more holistic health for everybody, everywhere.

 

 

Here is another interesting blog, from a slightly different perspective about how community really is the future of medicine – well worth a read, when you can make space for a nice cuppa and some left over Christmas cake (good for your wellbeing)!

 

The Future of Medicine is Community

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Understanding Brexit (and Trump)

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about how the Brexit and Trump campaigns were so successful. (I owe most of ths thought process to a very inspiring session about our shadow selves from Paul and Angie Woods, during a weekend focussed on the Enneagram). What was it, apart from the arguments made and the general feeling of discontent that appealed so deeply to the national psyches of the United Kingdom and the United States respectively?

 

I think there is some real wisdom to be gleaned from the Enneagram about the corporate personalities of the UK and USA, which might help us to understand why the majority voted as they did and how we might want to understand and embrace our corporate mind-sets as we look to develop a positive politics of peace for the future.

 

Richard Rohr has done some helpful work, as have others, on the personality types or dominant psyches of various nations. I agree with his perspective that Great Britain has a Type 6 personality and the USA is of Type 3. The root struggle for a type 6 personality is the need to be secure – therefore any campaign based on fear (of not having enough Sovereignty, of not having control of our money, of the “other” people who keep coming here and taking away our sense of national identity) touches on our deepest need and struggle. For a type 3 personality, the root struggle is the need to succeed and so the promise to ‘make America great again’ strikes the chord that tugs on the heart strings.

 

enneagram-3-6-9-healthSo, focusing in on the UK (maybe some thoughts on the lovely USA another time), if we are to shift the political discourse towards something more healthy for the future, we need to learn to listen to the part of us that feels the need to be safe. We need to understand the ‘shadow’ part of our corporate personality that is anxious and fearful, admitting to ourselves what drives our thoughts and actions. When a Type 6 personality is not in a healthy place, they will begin to regress into a Type 3 pattern of thinking. So, the underlying drive to be safe becomes the need to get noticed and be special. So, post-brexit, some of which was about the need to be safe, we find our politicans trying to re-assert our Soverignty and our ‘Greatness’. Only a couple of weeks ago, Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, was declaring on the radio that we don’t realise quite how the rest of the world sees us. Apparently, they admire us and think we need to continue showing great leadership in the world. We continue to believe this about ourselves, that we are very special and have a vital role which the rest of the world needs us to play. I wonder if we actually asked the rest of the world whether or not this is true, they might laugh in our face, pat us on the head and gently remind us that the world has moved on, but maybe we have not.

enneagram-6

 

Great Britain, as a Type 6 corporate personality, has an innate sense of loyalty. After the NHS, our Royal Family reamins the most popular part of our national identity, according to recent surveys. We carry a sense of being ‘loyal subjects’ who ‘do our duty for Queen and Country’. We are reliable, dependable, a safe pair of hands. But when our security is threatened, when we feel we are losing control, when we are told again and again that our borders are not safe, we begin to seek our security externally. We shut others out, we stop trusting others to make rules we don’t feel we have enough control over, build more weapons and ensure our finances work primarily for us. This then leads us towards a tendancy for workoholism, and so then we cut the nation state, drive people back into work, making an argument that it is the ‘lazy poor’ who are in part to blame for some of our mess. We become much more image conscious of our perceived role in the world and go on a charm offensive to remind people just how special we really are. But let me just state this: this is not a very healthy way to behave or live in the world.

 

I know this isn’t going to sound ‘Great’, but it is my perspective that ‘Great Britain’ left the European Union our of a place of fear, which has drawn us to try and re-discover our ‘special’ place in the world. During the referendum, some of our deepest corporate insecurities were touched on, and rather than see them for what they are, speak to them comfortingly and confront them within ourselves, we were enticed into age old patterns of behaviour which acually prevent us becoming the true gift amongst nations that we could be. You see, in my opinion, the invitation to the UK was (and actually continues to be) this: Firstly, let’s admit it – we’re scared. There is too much going on in the world that makes us feel out of control. We need a sense of comfort and security and we’re not sure how to get that anymore, without shutting our borders and taking back control over our ‘own laws and money’. This is exactly why we need the firendship and help of our neighbours! Secondly, we need to hear the call to us that we are loved, actually (!) and we can therefore allow ourselves to be still and know that safety is not truly found in better barriers and bigger weapons but in the risk that is relationship, vulnerability and being known…..that somehow underneath everything are the ‘everlasting arms’. Thirdly, this allows us to find a new place in ‘just being’, knowing we have inherent value, becoming truly loayal friends to the rest of Europe and the World, without the need to re-establish our status as the ‘Great One’.

 

Yes, the media holds an enormous amount of power, but it was the appeal to our deepest needs, a root struggles that enevitably lead to Brexit. Those, who felt the pull to remain, needed to speak to those very same issues, whilst calling us not towards our ‘3’ need to be Great and Successful, but towards our ‘9’. We must awaken the imagination of these amzing isles to a new place in the world, that is not about reassesrting our own name as Great, but finding our place as a nation of peace, building an altogether different kind of future in which our work does not look to protect our own future and rights, but the future hope of everyone everywhere. The UK has some incredible gifts and we can be a gift within and among the nations. We need a world in which each nation knows it’s inherent value and each can take their place amongst the nations to build a future for generations to come, in which we live in peace. We need to reimagine our place in the world. We need to tell a new and more ancient story. In order to do so we MUST face up to our own shadow, otherwise we will continue to act out of it and be the very antithesis of what we would, in our heart of heats, love to become.

 

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Solutions Focused Thinking for the NHS

One of the main headlines in the news this morning is that without extra funding, the NHS is in dire straits and patients are beginning to suffer as a result of less financial provision than is needed.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38019771

 

One of the things I have trained in, during my career is Solutions Focused Therapy. It’s a fantastic way of helping someone to open their mind to new possibilities once they become stuck in a rut. So, for example, when someone is struggling with depression, there can be a downward spiral of thoughts that prevents the person being able to see much hope for the future. What SFT does, is to awaken the imagination to some other possibilities. The more colour and variety that can be painted the better. So, if you’re imgresfeeling low/down/hopeless/sad/apathetic/bored/exhausted, I might invite you to imagine what life might be like if you weren’t feeling that way. You might tell me that you’d feel happy and then I would ask you to tell me what ‘happiness’ might be like for you. I’d ask you to describe in as much detail as possible how you would know that you were happy – what would be different? I’d get you to put as much colour on that as possible. And once I understood how you would know you were happy, I would ask how others around you would know – what your partner/children/friends/pets would notice about you…….suddenly your mind is alive with an alternative reality to where you are currently and although things won’t be suddenly better, your mind has been awakened to another way of being!  And that brings a beautiful thing – it brings possible solutions to the problem.

 

imgresThere is no doubting that the problems in the NHS are vast. One of the things I have found is that if you try and enable someone to think about the solutions without allowing them to tel you what the problems are, you won’t get very far. A certain amount of catharsis and expression of the issues is important. So here goes: here is a picture of the problems the NHS faces (and these have already been stated many times over, but let’s just be clear):

 

imgresThe NHS is under-funded. Cuts to other services, like social care have also had a massive impact on the NHS as a system being able to work and targets are being missed as a result. People are living longer and this means more complex health problems and a rise in dementia. There is more obesity and diabetes and this has a huge impact in the cost of healthcare. The way the NHS is funded is ludicrous and puts parts of the system that should be working collaboratively in direct competition with each other. Teams across the NHS are clumsy and clunky with little ability to work smartly due to constraints of historic ways things were set up. Demand and expectation are extremely high and yet there are multiple missed appointments. And I could go on!

 

BUT we CANNOT stay on the merry-go-round of problems. We cannot continue to simply imgreseat moany pie together and complain about the issues. Throwing mud and finger pointing, blaming everybody else but ourselves will solve nothing. The awful tribalism and over politicization of the NHS is preventing us from finding a way forward. What might health and social care in this country be like if open our mind to new possibilities? What if we stopped focusing on all the problems and dreamed of how things might be in 5, 10, 50, 100 years time? We’ve been doing this in Morecambe Bay and we’re moving from not only dreaming but to doing something different!

 

imagesWe’re working with our communities to help us all live more healthy lives, thinking about health as a social movement. 97% of all health monies are spent once people are ill. We’re taking prevention seriously! We are breaking down walls between our organisations and sharing our budgets. We’re building relationships between clinicians and managers across many diving lines. We’re collaborating to share our resources and using our budgets in a way that makes sense for our communities. We’re unashamedly talking a new language of love, building trust and establishing infrastructures of positive peace. We’ve worked out where we are being inefficient and sharing our conundrums with our communities (we do actually have to be responsible about what we spend – the NHS is not carte blanche). We’re working out how to work differently and more smartly. We’re sorting out our IT. We’re redesigning care so it makes more sense for our patients. We’re working on our consultation and communication skills. We’re being more proactive in getting positive messages out there. We’re building for the next 100+ years not just the next political cycle. This is better care together!imgres

 

At this point in time, it is vital that our collaborative efforts are not allowed to fail. We are working hard at so many levels. We are doing all that is being asked of us. We are playing ball. Now we need the government to put their money where their mouth is. Holding the funding as it is will see us and many other areas trying to do the same thing fail in the process and this would be a great tragedy. The solutions, of which there are many, will be in jeopardy. But this is not the time to lose hope. This is the time for us all to make good the dreams we hold for the future.

 

 

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