Apocalypse Now?

It’s a while since I last wrote a blog. That’s because I’ve been concentrating on finishing my first book and there are only so many hours in a day! It is called ‘Sick Society’ and will hopefully be out soon.

 

However, now that it’s done, I will hopefully have a bit more time for blogging again.

 

Last night, I awoke from a disturbing dream at around 0350h and wasn’t able to go back to sleep. I’ve had many troubling dreams of late – maybe I’m just processing. There have been plenty of tough situations to deal with at work recently, plus the backdrop of what feels like chaos. But I have learned over years to tune into my dreams, following the thread of them.

 

My dream last night consisted of two things: very rough, rising seas buffeting against the coast where I live and multitudes of people in refugee camps. I know exactly why I dreamt about them. Before bed last night, I listened, whilst my wife watched Episode 6 of Frozen Planet 2. A glaciologist, whom we both know, fairly well, was talking about his work. He is studying how the ice caps are melting at an alarming rate. I also read just before going to bed, an article about Greece and Turkey trading insults over the plight of 92 naked refugees, who had suffered utterly degrading treatment. My night was full of the angst of these two realities.

 

We find ourselves in an apocalyptic moment. An apocalypse is often thought to speak of the end of all things. Rather, in its truest sense, the word apocalypse simply means ‘to pull the lid off something’, or to reveal things for what they are. We live in a moment when perhaps more clearly than for a very long time, the facades which are held up to pretend that everything is ok, are well and truly down. Here in front of our naked eyes, we see the stark reality of the way things truly are.

 

Consider the following:

The rate of climate change is accelerating with devastating consequences.

There are now 89.1million people being displaced globally, including 27.1million refugees. All the while, we draw up the bridge and threaten those who flee their war-ridden nations with deportation to places where we will not have to see them.

Global financial uncertainty, with market volatility, rising inflation rates and stalling economic growth is leading to rising poverty. The gap is widening between the richest and poorest, globally, nationally and regionally. The cost of simply living is becoming unaffordable.

Huge food insecurity is driving millions of people globally into poverty, with staggering problems around hunger, rising starvation, famine and drought.

Over a million species are at risk of extinction, with terrible consequences to our loss of biodiversity.

The toxicity of nationalism and sovereignty is laid bare through senseless war and the breaking of unions.

And governments, banks and global financial institutions look to placate and reassure the markets with the same old answers to the same old questions as if they will lead to radically different answers.

 

Our world is sick. Our society is sick. The storms are raging. And millions upon millions of people are crammed into the valley of decision.

 

How do we heal? How do we respond in the face of such devastation, brutality and madness? There is no other way, but that of faith, hope and love.

 

Faith, stares fully into the outrageous abyss of what the apocalypse reveals and refuses to accept that it will always be this way. Faith knows the markets and its associated economic theories do not hold the answers. Rather, it enables us to challenge the inevitability of the status quo and see that the world can and must be made new. Faith trusts that God is with us in the midst of the multiple crises and is bending the arc of history towards goodness, despite what the evidence may tell us. Faith knows that simple small acts of radical kindness, when multiplied a billion times around the globe, can bring about life-giving change.

 

Hope helps us find a way together, even though it feels like we are too late or too far down the road to recover. Hope is not some kind of wishful thinking. It is, rather, as Rebecca Solnit reminds us, an axe we break down doors with, in an emergency. It is true that hope which is continually deferred makes our hearts sick. But hope that is coming is a tree of life and we must eat its fruit and allow it to infuse every cell in our beings. Now is not the time to lose hope.

 

Love, as bell hooks tells us is a verb! It is gutsy, determined and action orientated. Love refuses to stigmatise. Love dares to cross the dividing lines. Love welcomes the stranger and embraces the needy. Love is humble enough to change. Love embraces the ‘enemy’ and lays itself down for the ‘other’. Love always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. In the midst of the storm, only when we lock eyes with Love can we find the creative force needed to overcome the odds and build health and wellbeing in our communities and our ecology. Love never fails.

 

Whatever else we do, we must not turn our eyes away in this apocalyptic moment. Let the full pain and horror of this moment fully reveal the monstrous truth of the staggering injustice we have built through abusive power. Then let us turn our faces into the winds of change and set our sights on the future which is coming towards us. Let us throw off everything which hinders us and let us walk together into the way of peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share This:

Share

An Open Letter to NHS Staff – This ‘crisis’ is not your fault – you’re doing a great job!

If you work in the NHS, in any capacity, this letter is for you, no matter what your role.

 

Dear NHS Staff Member,

 

I write this to you as a GP, who cares for many people who work in the NHS and sees the huge stress many of us feel under. I write it as a ‘system leader’ in my role as Director of Population Health and as someone who has been a patient myself, twice in the last 12 months.

 

We are constantly told that the NHS is in crisis (I’ve even written blogs about it myself!), that we’re not meeting targets, that we’re getting things wrong, that we’re struggling to cope under the strain of demand but not being efficient enough and it can feel like what we’re doing isn’t up to the mark. With all the other current surrounding narratives we live with (like Brexit and Climate Change), things can so easily feel overwhelming.

 

So, I just wanted to write and tell you that the NHS is not in a crisis. We’re just underfunded and understaffed and we’re doing the best we can in those circumstances. Demand is growing year on year and we’re dealing with real complexity. We’ve been under the biggest and longest squeeze on our finances in NHS history, for the last 9 years, and the 3.4% uplift we’ve been promised, although welcome, is not enough to keep us running as we are and do the transformational work required of us. We don’t have enough people to deliver the work we’re being asked to do and so it’s no surprise that morale is low and burn-out levels are high. None of that is your fault. You are doing an amazing job. Every day, you turn up to work, in the context of everything else you have going on in your life and you are helping to deliver a truly world-class health service. Good job!

 

Amidst all the rhetoric you hear, the targets you feel under pressure to meet, the constant flow of people through the doors, the blame and complain (and sometimes bullying) culture that can grind you down, the traumas that you deal with every day, the pain that you help people process, the love and compassion that your pour out, the siloes and frustrations with the clumsiness of the system at times and the long hours – of which you work above and beyond most of the time…..know that you are more than your job and you are valuable just for who you are.

 

So, in all the busyness, remember to listen to and look after your own needs and those of your team around you. You can only do what you can do, and you’re doing a great job. Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how much you are attending to those things.

 

Physiological Needs – are you listening to your body? Are you getting time to have a drink, eat well, stretch, sleep and get to the toilet ok?

Safety – Are you feeling safe in your work? Do you feel protected? Are you worrying all the time about making mistakes? Do you feel it’s ok to make a mistake and be able to talk about it and learn from it, without fearing some awful consequences?

Love and Belonging – Do you feel like you are an important member of your team – that you matter, that you belong, that people around you care about you? Maybe in the humdrum and mayhem of everyday, we forget to tell each other.

Esteem – How is your self-esteem? Do you feel confident in who you are? Are you treated with respect and kindness and treating others with the same – no matter who they may be?

Cognition – Are you in a place where you can think clearly, make rational choices and in an environment which values learning and development?

Aesthetic Needs – Are you taking time to admire the beauty around you and enjoy life? Without this, it’s really hard to keep motivation alive, especially when things are tough and work feels really pressured. Taking time for this changes your perspective on everything else. How is your perspective? Is it in or out of kilter?

Self-Actualisation – Are you able to be spontaneous, making wise and creative, moral choices, problem solving without prejudice whilst accepting the facts in front of you?

Transcendence – This is the place we are aiming for as human beings – that ability to move out of our ego and into the place of gift from which we can love the ‘other’ and even our ‘enemy’ with the kind of transformative substance that changes the world.

 

The truth is, you can’t get to this place of self-actualisation and transcendence if the other areas aren’t looked after – so what needs attention? What are you noticing that needs taking care of? Don’t worry about all the pressures from on high – it’s all part of a system of biopower that needs to measure things to keep control. You – yes you, are valuable and important and the contribution you are making every day is phenomenal. You will certainly make some mistakes. It’s likely that you’ll feel overwhelmed at times, so listen to what your body, mind and heart needs and give yourself some space to attend to those things. Your own health and wellbeing really matters. So if you need help – and most of us do at different times, then please talk about it and give it some focus. We need to take care of each other – it’s ok not to be ok. Only when we create supportive environments for each other can we bring our ‘A game’ and keep providing the phenomenal care, innovation and transformation that we do every day.

 

Thank you a million times for everything you are doing, despite the struggles and pressure. Together, we need to create a culture of joy and kindness. That is partly the responsibility of leaders, but its incumbent on all of us, to treat ourselves and those around us with gentleness and respect. Go ahead and keep doing the great work you are doing every day – you really are a wonder!

 

Love and gratefulness

 

Andy

 

 

 

 

 

Share This:

Share

Solutions for the NHS Workforce Crisis

Tweet This week, the Kingsfund, one of the most respected think-tanks on health and social care in the UK declared that the current NHS staffing levels are becoming a ‘national emergency’.   The latest figures have been published by the regulator, NHS Improvement, for the April to June period.   They showed: ■   11.8% [Continue Reading …]

Share

Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

Tweet So, the NHS is in another winter crisis. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a crisis  as: 1 A time of intense difficulty or danger. ‘the current economic crisis’ Mass noun ‘the monarchy was in crisis’ 1.1 A time when a difficult or important decision must be made. As modifier ‘the situation has reached crisis point’ [Continue Reading …]

Share

Social Movements and the Future of Healthcare

Tweet As the crisis in the Western World deepens, and the growing reality sets in that business as usual simply can no longer continue nor solve our problems, our systems must change the way they view, deal with and hold onto power. The NHS is no exception. If we want a health and social care [Continue Reading …]

Share

Turning To Each Other

Tweet Here are some excerpts from a speech I gave recently at Lancaster City Hall about how in a time of crisis, we can either turn on each other, or turn to each other (my friend Mike Love gave me that line!). When we turn to each other, unimagined possibilities become the fuel of hope [Continue Reading …]

Share

The Art of Hosting Good Conversations – Morecambe

Tweet 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: Share This:

Share

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

Tweet All 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 [Continue Reading …]

Share

Wake Up to Our Health Crisis

Tweet It’s all over our news today – our health is in a real mess, and this is our wake-up call moment – we really do need to take it seriously. It’s all very well us protesting about the under-funding and under-recruitment in our NHS (and we are right to do so), but we can [Continue Reading …]

Share

Here we go round the NHS Mulberry Bush!

Tweet One of my favourite songs as a 5 year old was ‘Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush’. I’ve been involved with the NHS for 17 years now and every winter, we do this same dance around Emergency Departments and the total mess that surrounds hospital admissions, discharges and an ever growing list of [Continue Reading …]

Share