The Junior Doctors And Lady Godiva

A few months ago I wrote a blog suggesting the right approach for the junior doctors was one of subversion and submission. But I think I was wrong. It’s not that I’ve changed my mind on the power of subversion and submission, it’s just that this entire spectacle surrounding the junior doctors, the ‘7 day NHS’, the strikes and the media reporting there of actually affects us all at a profound level.

 

bmalogo14This situation exposes something far deeper than just an argument between Jeremy Hunt and the BMA and is far more important than discovering who has the strongest will power. Infact, the BMA have made a major error in targeting Jeremy Hunt so vindictively, because in the final analysis, this isn’t about Hunt at all. Jeremy Hunt can be replaced in a moment, and is likely to be succeeded by a far more robust Jeremy Hunt nhsBoris Johnson, who will simply pound his fist more visciously. To make Hunt the scape goat narrows this debate to something far too insignificant and actually strengthens the government’s ability to do exactly as they please.

 

Sadly, however, all this proves is how defunct our current system of government has always been. What the government really want is a discussion about how we can improve patient access across the weekend timeframe. However, what they did was to decide this is necessary and went ahead to try to fix what is incredibly complex. There was no discssion, no real engagement, no conversation, no asking of the deep questions. Just because we want something, doesn’t mean we can have it! Just because we think something is a good idea, doesn’t mean everyone else will agree! The entire process of enagement and change management is not understood at all. In the first8790 place, the goverment could instead have said to all the hospital trusts across the country what their hopes and intentions were and then waited to see if this was workable, in what way and how much it would cost. But you cannot simply act like Pharoah and expect the brick makers to make ever more bricks with less and less resource available – otherwise, you face an exodus!

 

What this entire debacle demonstrates is just how far free market capitalism has gone in its use of people as biopower to drive the system. The junior doctors of the NHS are nothing more than fodder to make the machine run. It doesn’t matter at all to the government that their lovely idea of a ‘7 day NHS’ is both unaffordable (due to chronic underinvestment in the health service) and unstaffable (due to a combination of under-training of staff across the board, and free market forces which work against people remaining in the UK). What this exposes in its most blatant form, is the chronic and shocking abuse of power, because of the very structures we have in place and the foundations upon which our society is built – namely violence, debt and control. And so, we see the human being reduced to what Hardt and Negri call ‘naked life’.

 

_86375024_86375023The system, to which we must all bow doesn’t care for the needs of the people who work within it. It will force them to submit. Why should doctors (many of whom work for less than the minimum wage, when on call) be allowed time to rest at weekends? Why can’t everybody have routine care through the weekend, just as from monday to friday (even though most of our top clinicians think we need better emergency care and not routine access)? Surely our economy needs this kind of health service? And actually, whilst we’re on it, isn’t it a waste of time, allowing teachers to have weekends off as well? Don’t we need our children to work harder, or at least be given some sort of babysitting service, so we can get more for our pound of flesh from their parents? If we are to have a 24/7 health service, why not a 24/7 education service? Our shops are already open practically 24/7. In this commercial world – shouldn’t everything else follow suit? No, no and NO!!

 

SolidarityThis is why we need a revolution of solidarity and resistance. We need a people movement who will stand together and be brave enough to say that there is a different way to see the world and a new way to live within it. Our naked life itself, although currently abused, can become for us our greatest power. Our naked life can expose the truth of just how abusive our systems have become. Our naked life, when combined with the indestructable force of kenotic love, becomes the very agent of change that we need.

 

So, what next for the junior doctors? Should they strike next week, including for emergency care? Are they ready for the media (who have lost the art of journalism) to turn against them? Are they ready for the storm that will ensue? Well, lives have already very sadly been lost. How many more can stand under the strain? What if the public turn against their heros?

 

It is time for something deeper to take place. It is time for solidarity. It is time for those of us in senior positions to cover shifts and show our unreserved support. It is time for the public, not just teachers, but across the board, to stand with the juniors. As my friend, Julie Tomlin showed me, we have to learn from the arab spring that one march alone will not do it. March after march after march may be needed. And singing too!! Let songs be heard on the streets! And to Lady-Godiva_DSC_9412really demonstrate the power of naked life……how about naked marches?!! (I grew up in Coventry, and so the story of Lady Godiva is in my blood – nakedness overcame oppression once before!). Or maybe the staff of the NHS should all turn up to work with no clothes on?!! How about people stripping off at least to their underwear to expose both the fragility  and the power of naked life?!

 

There is a different way for humanity. We can free ourselves from the oppressive yolk that seeks to divide and rule us. Perhaps, the Junior Doctors could be more creative and expose the deep structures of oppression that lie beneath the calls for this ‘7 day NHS’? Now is the time for subversion, for exposing just how unjust our systems are. But subversion alone will not suffice. We need solidarity and resistance. So, who will stand and march with the Junior Doctors (naked if need be?!) for an altogether different future?

 

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The Transformative Power of Listening

One of the hats I wear is to be the Clinical Lead Commissioner for Maternity Services in North Lancashire and I chair the Maternity Commissioning Group for Morecambe Bay. iu-1Over the last few years, Morecambe Bay has been under huge public and governmental scrutiny due to some sad and significant failings at UHMBFT, our acute NHS Trust. This lead to the in-depth and wide-ranging “Kirkup Review” through which we have learned together some sobering and important lessons.

 

In 2013, we carried out what is called a ‘Picker Survey’ in the Bay and had a startling reality check. 44% of the women we aimed to care for told us that they did not feel treated with kindness or respect. It was a devastating figure for us to hear. So, learning from the ‘Leeds Poverty Truth Challenge’, we learned that we needed to allow ourselves to really listen to what women were saying to us, to hear their stories and let the impact of those stories begin to change us. One of the great advocates for women, compassionate care, kind listening and careful communication in this area is Mel Gard, a Doula, who facilitates our ‘Maternity Services Liaison Committee’ (MSLC) around the Bay. The MSLC is a group of women and men who use our services, which Julia Westaway must be credited for facilitating so well. Over the last three years in particular, they have taken the time to build relationships with those of us whoiu-4 commission and provide services and in effect ‘speak truth to power’. Mel and many others have brought to us stories of times when listening and communication skills have been excellent within our maternity service and times when they have been clumsy at best and detrimental or abusive at worst. This has begun a culture change and a survey carried out in 2015 has seen this startling figure reduce to 26% (we know this is still far too high, but it is a vast improvement).

 

It is only in encountering the ‘other’ that we are really changed. Alan Alda says this, “Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” There is no point in hearing the stories and impact of poor communication on our patients if it does not fundamentally change us and our practice. In the NHS, we’re so used to being the experts that we sometimes think we have the right to tell people what they should do, rather than really listening to them and understanding what is important to them, the person who is the expert in their own life and situation. It is partnership and not dictatorship that we need. It is a willingness to learn together rather than an arrogance that knows how to ‘fix’ things that we must develop. So, together with the MSLC we have devised an entire learning exercise for all those who work within our maternity service. We are going to allow ourselves to encounter the ‘other’, on their terms, not ours, and let the impact of their stories transform us. So, in the next couple of weeks, women from around the Bay are going to film and tell their stories in a variety of ways and this film will then be used as a learning tool for every person who works in our service around the Bay, including cleaners, the nursing auxiliary team, midwives, obstetricians of all grades etc in some wide-ranging attitudinal and communication training. Amazingly, we have just won a national grant of £65000 to help us do this really well, thanks to the exceptional work of Lindsay Lewis, our lead manager and Sascha Wells, our Head of Midwifery.

 

NAWIFUThe idea is straight forward. By hearing the real life stories from around the Bay and allowing ourselves to be impacted by them, we will then use some reflective conversations, and techniques from the ‘Art of Hosting’, to allow the power of real listening to change us and transform our practices. I am so grateful for the women and men who have been brave enough to tell their stories. I am grateful to our senior team that we have bimgreseen willing to be humble and be impacted by these stories. I am grateful for relationships and partnerships that are being established between those of us who provide services and those who use them. I am grateful for the tenacity of people who want to see our cultures change. I am grateful for ‘The Leeds Poverty Truth Challenge’ and its far reaching consequences. I am grateful for the opportunity to break down barriers and find positive ways forward. I am grateful for the transformative power of listening and the change that can happen when we really encounter another human being. Better Care Together is so much better when we work together with those we are trying to serve.

 

Stanley Hauerwas said this: “I was smart, but I had not yet learned to listen.” The NHS is full of really smart people. When we learn to listen, our ‘smartness’ will become real wisdom, and with wisdom, we can bring real, lasting change.

 

 

 

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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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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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