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

Share This:


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……

Share This:


A Co-operative Future for General Practice?

Tweet If 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 [Continue Reading …]


Floods, Fire and Fresh Thinking in the North

Tweet As I was driving along the A6 today, between Carnforth and Morecambe, on my way to visit an elderly patient,¬†I experienced in the space of a few moments both exhilaration and dismay. I was exhilarated by the magnificent view of the mountains of Cumbria, just across the Bay in the beautiful sunshine and felt [Continue Reading …]