Changing Health and Wellbeing Through ‘Self-Care’

imgresBetter Care Together is the way in which health services are now being redesigned and reorganised around Morecambe Bay, so that we can provide the best care we can for the people who live here in a way that is safe, sustainable and accessible. It is an on-going process and involves the breaking down of barriers between General Practices, the Hospital Trust (UHMBT), Community Nursing and Therapies, Mental Health Services, Social Care, Allied Services – like the Police and Fire Service – and the Voluntary Sector.

Here in Carnforth, we are piloting some work around ‘self-care’ and exploring what it means to be a healthy town. This is now beginning to spread like wild fire around this area, which is exciting to watch! Part of this work is rooted in the fact that currently 1 in every 5 pounds spent in the NHS is due to our lifestyle choices. If we’re going to have a NHS in the future, then we need to try and choose to live more healthily together. We must also recognise that being healthy and well is far more than just physical health. It includes mental health, social heath and systemic (or environmental) health. A few months ago we hosted a number of conversations in Carnforth about what it might be like if Carnforth was the healthiest town in Lancashire. Some really interesting ideas emerged from the community about singing together more regularly, having less dog poo on the streets, creating safe places for the children to play, getting more exercise into our schools, encouraging healthy eating, a mental health café, help for carers and many other brilliant suggestions.

From these conversations, a ‘Self Care Tree’ has grown with four roots and three clear branches that we believe will help us grow together into a healthy and well town. The roots are straight forward –tn_TreeRoots_resized_b-300x300[1] 1) Really learning to engage with our local community instead of assuming that we know what they need and learning to do things with them instead of to them, 2) being part of an Integrated Care Community – see below, 3) Being part of Better Care Together, 4) Understanding Wellbeing – shifting our mindsets from an ‘illness model’ of health to a ‘wellness model’.

The three main branches we have developed in Carnforth are as follows: The first is that we have some ‘culture change’ to undergo, both in our medical and nursing teams and also as a wider community. Over the coming months we will see the emergence of what we are calling an Integrated Care Community – first modelled for this area in Garstang. As part of Better Care Together, we have appointed a fantastic new Care Co-ordinator, Sarah Baines, who was part of our District Nursing team. Sarah will work alongside Dr David Wrigley at Ash Trees Surgery to help co-ordinate care more effectively in the community for people with more complex health problems and provide more stream-lined care, preventing unnecessary hospital admissions and enabling faster and smoother discharges back home from hospital. Secondly, we are learning to take more of a ‘coaching’ approach to how we consult with patients, to encourage more partnership working with people, rather than telling people what to do (which isn’t actually very effective). Staff are training in ‘coaching practice’, ‘motivational interviewing’ and ‘shared decision making’. We are trying to be more proactive with information. If you look on our practice website, www.ashtrees.co.uk, you will find a tab entitled ‘self-care’. Here you will find videos (many more to come and some of which we are re-doing!) that talk about various common conditions you can treat yourself without having to go through the often difficult task of finding an appointment with one of our team. Our local pharmacists are a hugely valuable resource, who can offer excellent health advice and treatments over the counter, saving local people time and inconvenience.  Also, not too far away, we hope to have a brilliant new facility called ‘e-consult’, which will allow our patients to manage their own care more efficiently ‘on-line’.

Stack-of-British-one-pound-coins-1516897[1]The pressure on General Practice is huge. The government only allocates £136 per person per year to General Practice. this money accounts for all GP consultations, appointments with nurses, blood tests, investigations and referrals and indeed the payment of staff. If you want to know what this compares to, then for £136, you can buy 11 months worth of pet insurance for a rabbit or 3 months worth of coffee every day on your way to work!! No wonder the system is under strain! If we want to have a NHS that is free for everybody and still standing in the years ahead for future generations, then we do need to be careful that we don’t abuse the system and take care of ourselves better and think about whether we really need an appointment before booking one!

 

The second branch we have seen is the emergence of ‘community leaders’, who have seen a community need and have stood up to do something about it. We know there are already loads of il_340x270.575369125_lhd6[1]community leaders out there doing great stuff, like sports clubs as just one example. So, we have seen the start of a mental health café, called “Serenity” every Wednesday afternoon at Hunter Street in Carnforth, 2-4pm. A carer’s café has started on the 3rd Saturday of every month 2-4pm, again at Hunter Street. Carnforth Community Choir meets at 7pm every Friday evening at the Civic Hall – singing is well known to improve our health and wellbeing! We have volunteer dog poo wardens, trying to help our streets be cleaner (it’s amazing what dog poo says about a town), and people cleaning up our parks to give the children in our community safe places to play outdoors. We have trained 22 “health champions” who will be starting with various initiatives soon, and many others have volunteered to help in lots of exciting new ways. All of this serves to break down social isolation and encourage us to take care of ourselves and one another.

 

The third branch is ‘clinical leadership’. Right now, Morecambe Bay has some of the worst health outcomes in the country. We have terrible heart disease rates and people die here far too youngimage[1] of preventable illnesses.  It would be wrong of us, as clinical leaders in the community, to stand by and let these statistics continue as they are. Morecambe Bay deserves better. So, we are working with schools to encourage more exercise in the children and young people in our community. Two local schools (‘Our Lady of Lourdes, Carnforth’ and ‘Arch Bishop Hutton, Warton’, with ‘St John’s C of E, Silverdale’ soon to follow)  have started running a mile a day – all children and staff! This is an amazing achievement and there are some wonderful stories emerging already of the great impact this is having on pupils and staff alike. We’re seeing huge improvements in sleep cycles, behaviour, concentration and general health. Under the banner of ‘Let’s Get Moving’ we hope that all the primary schools in the district will soon be participating in other similar initiatives. We have also started a couple of programmes of work with Carnforth High School, in line with needs they have highlighted to us. We are also going to trial a new NHS shopping list and menu to try and encourage us as a community to eat more healthily and avoid some of the unhealthy ‘bargains’ that the advertising giants try and tempt us with, cutting down on meat, alcohol, sugar and too much fat. If we don’t learn to manage our appetites and our spending habits better, we will never overcome the alarming rise in diabetes rates and heart disease. We are responsible together and really can make a change! So, not long from now, people in this area won’t even need to stress about what to cook for the week ahead, because they will be able to turn up to their local supermarket and get some really healthy and tasty ideas, all costed out and easily affordable (with huge thanks to our amazing chefs, Andy Bickle and Lee Till, from our hospital trust, working with us)! By eating more healthily and taking more exercise, we can genuinely change the health and wellbeing in this area for the next 50 years! On a different tack, our district nursing team is also beginning a leg-ulcer café for those who have been housebound. Such cafés have been proven elsewhere to break social isolation and improve healing rates for patients. All of this work is being undergirded by amazing research projects with the University of Lancaster.

As part of our on-going conversation with this community, we are hosting a further 781-T[2]evening, alongside our Mayor, Malcolm Watkins. It will be on Wednesday 6th April, 7pm at Carnforth Civic Hall. There will be other conversations in the next couple of months in Warton (for those living in Warton and Silverdale) and in Bolton-Le-Sands, for those in BLS, Halton and the Kellets. On Saturday 25th June 2016, we will also co-host a huge Health Mela at Carnforth High School. If you live in the area, please do come along to either of these events and talk with us about what is already going on and how we can all work together to make this town and district a truly healthy place.

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Commissioning the 3rd Sector for the NHS

imgresAmidst the current ‘efficiency savings’, or cuts by any other name, in the NHS, the voluntary or 3rd sector, including the faith communities are an absolutely vital partner in health and social care. Here in Morecambe Bay, we are seeing incredible work done by this sector. Genuinely, the safety net created across this Bay for people with significant mental health issues, chronic physical health complaints, those at the end of life, the isolated and lonely etc is amazing. However, as the financial squeeze increases on the NHS, the 3rd sector, although phenomenally resilient and full of social entrepreneurs with good heart, is really beginning to struggle to secure funding. If the 3rd sector, (which gives far more for far less) begins to crumble, then we will see health and social care completely collapse.

 

I wish truth and solutions were all black and white, but there is complex grey for us to wade through, if we are to see a more resilient 3rd sector emerge for the sake of our communities. The relationship between the NHS and 3rd sector is complex but vital. I want to briefly highlight some of the main issues and then look at two possible solutions.

 

  1. Evidence: in order for commissioners to fund projects/organisations, we need evidence that the money invested a) makes a difference and b) makes a saving. Unfortunately data is often not robust enough to make recurrent funding possible.
  2. Fairness: there is currently great injustice built into the the NHS/3rd sector relationship. For example, I know that some of our more struggling publicly funded services, are now referring huge numbers of people into the voluntary sector, as they can’t cope with the capacity, but the funding does not then follow these people. In essence the NHS is dumping people onto the 3rd sector and the 3rd sector is buckling under the weight of it. But the blame is not on the NHS nor the 3rd sector. I’m afraid under resourcing from central government is a key issue here…..but this isn’t going to change any time soon, unless we have a revolution (!), so we need to be creative.
  3. Numbers: commissioning services is really complex. When there are loads of small charities, often doing quite similar things it can be really hard to know who to fund and how to monitor outcomes and effectiveness (like it or not, we do have to give an account for the money we spend!).

So, where might some solutions lie? I would like to suggest two broad possible solutions. I admit they are not perfect and they certainly won’t be the only solutions.

 

imgresFirstly, here in Morecambe Bay, we are developing ICCs (Integrated Care Communities). These are built around General Practice (be that one or many practices in a geographical area) but incorporate GPs, District Nurses, Community Matrons, Long Term Condition Teams, Community Therapists, Mental Health Teams, Social Care, the City Council, the Poimgreslice, the Fire Service and the Third Sector all partnering together for more effective working and therefore better care for all. One option would be for each ICC to have a capitated budget which would allow each team to decide which voluntary sector organisations would meet the need of their particular areas most effectively and fund them accordingly and fairly.

 

imagesA second solution could be for the 3rd Sector to form one or several larger co-operatives. The huge advantage here is that it would then allow a more straight forward commissioning relationship and would allow the many to be become stronger and more resilient together. In a co-operative model, it would be easier to build research partnerships and accountability between members. It would also give the sector more clout as a partner round the table with the various public sector organisations.

 

My work has taught me how vital the Voluntary and Faith sector is to the ongoing health and social care of our communities. It needs adequate funding and support, without which it will crumble. We need to help partner together to make it more resilient, but in order for this to happen, the 3rd sector must deal with some of it’s default towards self-protectionism and find creative solutions towards a more sustainable future……

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A Co-operative Future for General Practice?

imgresIf you take the work of Steve Peters (of “The Chimp Paradox” fame) seriously, which I do, then you can see Chimps at work everywhere in the NHS right now (and I’m not taking a cheap shot at Jeremy Hunt). For those of you, who have no idea what I’m talking about, then do read the book….but a brief precis is this: each of us are two people – we are both simultaneously an emotionally driven, primal chimp and a more rational human being. When faced with difficult circumstances, our chimps all too easily take over and our behaviour is driven by our emotions, because our human also feels insecure and we lose hold of our values (the computer part of our brains) which is able to alter our chimp behaviour.

 

I’m not making a judgmental criticism, I see it in myself. I see the raw emotion of how Iimgres feel about what is happening in General Practice, Community Nursing/Therapy and indeed the NHS at large and it becomes easy to function out of raw emotion, heading into ‘rant mode’ or a strong defensive posture with the rest of my pride. But I have found it brings division. It pits my practice against another or General Practice at scale against the Hospital Trust or the government or whoever. But it doesn’t actually solve anything. It stares the problem in the face and hollers at it or throws faeces at it, and other than being cathartic (which has it’s place for a while), it doesn’t engage with a creative or collaborative process about how we face the future. The facts are right in front of us, and there is some thought about how to make General Practice strong enough to survive, be that through giant mergers or the formation of federations. Here in Morecambe Bay, we are experimenting with both those options and also trying to work in Integrated Care Communities (incorporating all our community partners) according to geographical locations.

 

However, I’m not sure we are facing up to the realities we see creatively enough. Whether we like it or not, General Practice as we have known it is unsustainable. There simply aren’t enough doctors coming through training, there aren’t enough doctors choosing to be GPs and there certainly aren’t enough GP trainees wanting to become partners.The partnership model as we have known it, is over, and the sooner we face up to this, the more creative energy we will be able to harness to find solutions. The formation of federations or the advent of the ‘super-practice’ will go some way to stop the gap, but it is the structuring of them that deserves some attention. Integrated working with community teams, be that district nursing, mental health, community therapies or social services calls for a wider and deeper system change. But here is the very difficult thing for GPs to let go of: the idea of the autonomous self, being in charge.

 

Co-Op-PrinciplesIf we are going to find solutions to the needs of the people we serve and develop together (no matter what is being shaped from the centre) a future healthcare model that works, GPs may need to let go of our power, as we have known it and embrace a different way of being. I think a possible solution lies with the co-operative movement as this would allow a truly integrative model to develop that benefits all our workers, no matter what their role, giving us the cultural environment in which innovation, excellence, learning, creativity and compassion could really flourish. Due to the nature of co-operatives and the principles at their core, a powerful force could be released which provides alternative solutions for a more equitable society.

 

What would a co-operative model be like? Well, there are different options and different imagesstyles, from John Lewis to Mondragon, or the model adopted by Jos de Blok in the Netherlands. But the reason I like it so much, is that it takes power from the few and shares it with the many. It allows for a different style of leadership and a different mode of making decisions. Collaborative conversations and compassionate care of one another in providing care to the wider community becomes the order of the day with leadership that is both clinical and managerial but modeled on financial benefits for everybody and cooperation of wider teams of people.

 

imagesThere are draw backs and co-operatives are not perfect, but they are a solution that should be seriously considered as General Practice tries to navigate itself into the future. They can be complex to set up, but I would argue that complexity is worth it when it offers a solution that lasts longer than a more straight forward quick-fix that may not make it past a decade or two.  Are we brave enough to explore solutions that dis-empower us for the sake of a better future for everyone?

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Better Care Together – We Have to Fix the IT

iu-4In all the places I have seen an ability to try something radical and new in the sphere of health and social care (Valencia and Arkansas being two prime examples), I have witnessed one key component. They have fixed the IT! It is really not beyond the wit of man, though I accept it is not altogether straightforward. However without it, change is painfully slow and it is extremely difficult to make the kind of changes we need to see. I do not understand why the Government will not invest in this area appropriately. Here in Morecambe Bay we need to crack this nut if we’re going to be able to let go of our past and embrace a truly collaborative and integrated way of working.

 

The benefits to everybody would be huge. Patients would have safer, more streamlined and ultimately more affordable care. This would cut the complaint and litigation culture to an absolute minimum. Clinicians would be able to work far more collaboratively, effectively, safely and efficiently. If we allow ourselves to imagine just what a difference it could make then we will act to make this a reality.

 

There have been some great strides forward made here by the excellent work of GPs like Tim Reynard and George Dingle, who are developing some fantastic new ways of working and building relationships between primary and secondary care. But their efforts are being hampered by a lack of a truly integrated system.

 

As just one example, take the referral process. If a patient comes to me asking for a referral, which may also require some complex tests to help reach a diagnosis, currently there is so much wasted time and effort plus duplication of work that it is an absolute farce. Say someone comes to see me with a suspected rheumatological condition. Currently, I can see them, assess them, order some (but not all tests) and then refer them. My notes will be on my computer system, but my letter to the consultant may not fully convey all the intricacies of the history I have taken over weeks. My letter has to be written and sent off (on occasion they get lost in the system, causing huge frustration to the patient). Then the consultant sees them……..she will probably order further tests, which she will then write to me to organise, or have them done at the hospital, then she will see the patient again. She will then start some treatment, but will write to me to prescribe it and then the patient will then come to collect it from my surgery. She also asks me to refer onto our community physio teams (a letter I read at 7pm after 11 hours of non-stop work, when I want to get home for my kids’ bedtime stories). There are several points of frustration for everybody involved in the process, not least the patient with wasted time and resources along the way (plus extra letters to answer complaints for missed referrals or whatever else might go wrong).

 

In an integrated system, the patient sees me. I write good and detailed notes, which I link to the consultant rheumatologist, assigned to work alongside my practice, Unknown-5with a short note attached. She then liaises with me in a straightforward way about the case, decides what extra tests are required and these are organised (within appropriate resource allocation) ahead of the consultation. The consultant sees the patient, with a full history and set of investigations. She agrees a treatment course with the patient, prescribes the necessary drugs, which automatically appear in the electronic record, so my team can print out the prescription and the patient can pick it up. She also simultaneously links her consultation to the community physio with a short note and her therapy can be arranged in a slick and easy fashion. This has saved loads of steps, time, energy, complexity and errors. It is a basic example. There are many more areas, like maternity care, patients with complex medical problems involving the care of multiple departments etc where this is simply a no brainer.

 

So what is stopping us? Actually it’s pretty straight forward. 1) A lack of sensible and adequate resourcing from the government within the Vanguard system, which would allow us to make significant changes in a small amount of time. Instead of concentrating on a few Vanguard sites and allowing us to really flourish, things have become far too watered down across way too many experimental initiatives and the funding promised has not been made available. This really needs to be rectified. I’m sure there are things we could also streamline within our Accountable Care System. 2) Stupid competition laws and sweeteners offered to some of our partner providers to use certain IT systems which are clunky and unfriendly when it comes to creating platforms that can talk to each other, have slowed us down. We need a focused and joined-up approach. 3) Priorities. My argument is that without integrating the IT fully and investing in front end smart IT that promotes self care and more appropriate use of resources, we will not achieve together what we could in a way that will benefit everybody.

 

In short, we need to fix the IT. It is the solution to a vast majority of our problems and will allow us to really have Better Care Together.

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5 Ways to Wellbeing 2) BE ACTIVE (Changing the culture of the NHS)

In my last vlog, I started looking at how we might use the 5 Ways to Well-being  to help build resilience and promote health, particularly for those who work within the NHS (though it can apply to anyone). This second vlog takes a look at the being active and how it can improve health and well-being.

 

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Better Care Together – Hope for the Future

iu-4My last post, “Time to Face The Music” was deliberately provocative. We cannot simply keep on doing what we’ve always done or nostalgically hold onto the ‘good old days’. As previously stated, it simply isn’t sustainable and we’re only deceiving ourselves if we think it is.

 

We find ourselves in a a different (post flood) landscape, a terrain that requires a new way of being together. And we are fast learning, here in Morecambe Bay, that it’s not just enough to break down the traditional barriers between Hospitals, GPs, Mental Health, Community Nursing, the Emergency Services and Social Services. No, we have to go much wider and deeper than that if we’re going to develop a radically new way of working that is sustainable. We need to develop a Wellness Service that is of high quality, able to continually improve and offer compassionate, excellent, affordable, safe and accessible health and social care to everyone in our community. In order to do so, we need every person in every community to partner with us. We need partnerships with education, business, sport, justice, housing and the voluntary sector to name just a few. Old silos must be broken down and centrally driven targets must be re-examined to give communities the ability to creatively flourish together.

 

We need big conversations across the sectors of society about what it really means for us to be well and how we can take better responsibility for ourselves and each other. It is so much more than just physical and mental health. It must include a wider understanding of social and systemic health also (see earlier posts on this).

 

And this is exactly what our team in Morecambe Bay is trying to do.images We’re not always getting it right and we’re learning some really tough lessons along the way, especially that our old habits of trying to fix things die hard! Real engagement takes time, but in the process of doing so, we are seeing 3 core principles emerging out of our focused work in Carnforth that we believe to be important keys to unlock this process in every community.

 

As we listen and engage with local people and communities, firstly we are seeing community leaders naturally rise up to make a difference and help increase the well-being of their area. We have many varied examples of amazing initiatives beginning. Secondly, we are seeing clinical leadership that is evidenced based and responsible, but empowers others to make a change. Thirdly we are seeing culture change beginning to emerge, with a more effective coaching culture and a focus on the wellness of those who deliver the care within our communities.

 

iuConversations really matter and carry within them the dynamic potential to make significant and lasting change, as we learn not only to talk differently, but to act differently as well. In the NHS, we have some expertise, but the true experts of their own lives and communities are the citizens we serve. We must change to be much more in conversation with them rather and lose the role of ‘grandma knows best’!

 

 

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Time to Face the Music

UnknownWe have yet to really face up to the crisis we are in. We keep on pretending that by making a few alterations here and some adjustments there to how we deliver health and social care, we might be able to save the NHS. But this simply isn’t true. Last weekend saw a crisis conference for GPs nationally as 38% think they will be forced to leave the profession in the next 5 years due to severe under-resourcing and increased stress (that would be a loss of 10000 GPs throughout England, with government plans to recruit only 5000 by 2020). Yet again our Emergency Departments are at breaking point, Junior Doctors are staging further strikes, Public Health Services have been decimated and although new partnerships are being forged with social services and (to some extent) the education system, deep cuts in both those areas mean there is little time or energy left to find new ways of working for the future health of our population. Throw into the mix a need to save £22 billion through “efficiencies” and couple that with the crippling debt caused through programs like PFIs in our acute hospital trusts and we really do have a problem.

 

Complicating this picture is the stark reality that 1 in every 5 pounds spent in the NHS is as a direct result of our current lifestyle choices and we have images-2believed a lie that the NHS is “free” and therefore we can treat it however we like and live however we want and it will somehow magically sort us out. On top of this we have an ageing population with increasingly complex health needs and an ongoing under funding of the entire system (only 8.9% of GDP).

 

And we cannot we forget the financial crash of a few years ago which was a major warning sign to us that we are living in a broken system and the god that is
imagesthe Nation State is beginning to crumble all around us. Let me just repeat that difficult statement in another way. The grandfather that is the Nation State is now utterly riddled with a cancer and it is dying. The cancer, like all cancers needs ever increasing growth in order to sustain it’s life and our economy is set up to feed it, but even built on the pyramid of power, control and debt, it can no longer survive. Like any dying man, it is holding on for dear life and as it does so, it puts the squeeze ever tighter on to health, education and other public services, pretending it is still powerful, controlling public services through the slashing of budgets and ever tighter and undeliverable targets whilst not actually dealing with it’s debt issue at all, but telling us all a story that it is. And the mouth of Unknownthis dying beast, the media that has become utterly complicit with it all, spouts out tale upon tale of how mighty the State remains, “punching above it’s weight” on an International scale (using violence and threat where necessary to do so), but tightening it’s belt to ensure economic sustainability. Am I being dramatic? Listen, when 85 people now have more accumulative wealth than half the world and when the 50 richest global corporations are richer than the 50 richest Nation States (and are therefore powerful enough to tell them what to do), the facades must come down. The Emperor has no clothes on.

 

images-1And so it is time to face the music. Once we realize that the centre cannot hold, we can permission ourselves to find new ways of being. There really are alternatives to what we have now. there are other ways of being. Life will go on. We can learn to dance to a different tune, we can sing a new song and begin to reimagine a different kind of future. We can learn to live differently. There are some tough conversations to be had. But, as the old systems begin to pass away, what might emerge instead? What brave or holy experiments might we try without letting go of the wisdom we have learned? What might it be like if politics and economics were just part of a collaborative and cooperative world rather than assuming the role of dominant sovereignty over every other sphere of society? What if we can’t have everything we want right now, learning some new and more effective boundaries around the ways we live? What might we prioritise? How might we move towards a more peaceful world? How are we going to live in a way that is sustainable and leaves the environment as a gift rather than a burden for the generations to come? How might we develop an economics of equilibrium (the state of a healthy body) rather than one of continual growth which requires us to feed its ever hungry belly with our own lives? What might we recover in education? How could we shape regional wellness services? How might cities and regions gift their expertise to one another? How might we choose to protect the most vulnerable in society and provide for the most deprived, keeping love at our core over self-preservation, greed, fear or hate?

 

Unknown-1Truthfully, we can no longer afford to avoid these conversations or hide away in our business. If we want things to remain exactly as they are, then so be it, but what will we leave for our children’s children? In the NHS we spend our lives trying to preserve and prolong life at all costs. But we must learn to face death, because there is life the other side of it. There is life the other side of the Nation State as we have known it. There is still ethical, free, safe, sustainable and accessible healthcare for all the other side of the NHS in its current form. It might become a National Wellbeing Service. Or it might be more regional and cooperative. It will mean some different lifestyle choices and some more effective partnerships. It will mean changing our attitude towards how and where care is provided. But I’m sorry to say that unless we make some radical choices to either pay a lot more tax or not renew trident and spend all of that money on healthcare, there are some deep cuts to be made in the mean time. It is going to be a very painful few years ahead. We must not imbibe ideologies that protect the rich and punish the poor. But we have to be brave enough to let go of the good we have known in order to embrace a future that is better for everybody together.

 

Unknown-2And that calls for a different kind of kenarchic leadership. We need leaders who will serve and collaborate with communities in open and honest conversations, so that cuts do not happen in an isolated boardroom, but witUnknown-3h and among the communities most affected. Leaders must learn to ‘hold the space open’ for the new to emerge. It will mean understanding that we must make choices about which targets we do and don’t decide to meet, prioritising some services over others and taking better care of ourselves individually and in community. But it is not a time to lose hope! There is much goodness to come, much rediscovering to take place. Much creative reimagining to enjoy. Many songs to be sung. So, let’s face the music and dance.

 

 

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Telethon for Trident!

pudsey tridentI love comedy that makes you see something so much more clearly than you have ever seen it before. The NHS in this country is on it’s knees and will require a £22 billion fund over the next 5 years on top of the £8 billion promised by the government. Trident will cost £23.4 billion to renew. Our education system and social services are also facing terrible cuts.

 

What is it that we love about trident? The fact that we would never actually use it? The fact that it is a weapon of a bygone era that would be utterly useless in our current world situation? The fact that it has deterred none of the terrorist attacks across the world in the last 15 years?

 

We have to break the power of the metanarrative that believes that this kind of bomb is what ultimately protects us. It does not. We also have to break the lie that there would be no hope or jobs for the people of Barrow-In-Furness (part of the Bay in which I live) if we stopped commissioning it. There is actually other far more needed work for skilled engineers to be doing. The risk of something going wrong in the process of building this bomb is far more deadly to the people of Barrow than the thought of reimagining the future of the town without it.

 

This bomb does not bring us peace. It is a colossal waste of money and renewing it at a time when we are making such terrible cuts to education, health, social services and other vital infrastructure is utterly absurd. If we do feel so passionately about keeping it, then I do believe a telethon is the way to go!

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The Nazi Dog Experiment

Do you know the story of the Nazi Dog Experiment? The Nazis found that if they inflicted a group of dogs with pain through electrocution, 1/3 of them would lie down hopelessly and do what they were told. 1/3 would keep a fighting spirit no matter how much pain they were put under. The other 1/3 would start off fighting, but then once more pain was inflicted, they too would give up hope and submit to the inevitable.

 

I fear that this is now the state of those working in the public sector. Today has been horrible. You see, I am watching a nauseating sense of powerlessness and hopelessness begin to smother those in healthcare, social care, local government and education. The fatigue is palpable and it is deeply saddening.

 

We have seen the desecration  of our Public Health Service, leaving Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) needing GPs to do much of the Public Health work, when they are already on the ropes. So GPs are now looking to partner with local schools. But every school in England is facing a 10% cut to their budget over the next few months. That means deep cuts to the kids who need help the most and it also means that schools now have no time, energy or resources to partner with local health services for the future wellbeing of the rising generation. A 10% cut to every school with no bail out help from local government as they too are being flogged. How is this not front page of every newspaper. What has happened to our press? Who is holding the government to account? There is something very sinister at work. A tiredness and hopelessness has set in.

 

But I will not be silent. Nor will I give up hope. The centre cannot and will not hold. We must throw off the oppressive yoke and we must throw off the shackles. I am still confident of this: top down hierarchy that eats up people like bread, holding power to itself through violence, law and debt has already lost. There is a better way. And we will see it and walk in it. It is the way of love. It is the new politics of love.

 

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1) CONNECT (5 Ways to Wellbeing) – Changing the Culture of the NHS

Here is the first of a series of little video blogs about how we can change the culture of the NHS. The first cohort look at using the “5 Ways to Wellbeing” from the New Economics Forum to help us on our way. This vlog also gives a bit of an intro into the series, so is a little bit longer than the others which will follow.

 

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