Blog Posts

Lest we forget

It is very much normal to want to move on, to let memories fade, to look to ‘the present’ or ‘the future’, after a period of trauma.  Sadly, we may meet new perils or dramas that consume our attention, arouse our anxiety, fuel passionate feelings - leaving our earlier wounds and vulnerabilities unaddressed.  When Kipling’s … Continue reading Lest we forget

A time for unity

There are two types of call for unity. One is recognition that it’s essential, with everyone involved doing their best to find common ground and a constructive way forward. The other is an insistence that dissenters should fall in behind the ‘party line’, one example being that the British People have decided we are leaving … Continue reading A time for unity

First among equals

Charles Walker, a  Tory MP for 17 years, spoke on Wednesday evening on the BBC Among many other pertinent comments, he said “I’ve had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box, not because it’s in the national interest, but because it’s in their own interest to achieve ministerial position... “ … Continue reading First among equals

Silence may be golden……..

Viewers will have noticed that we haven’t posted for a very long time. Penny and Chris have both been very busy with books. Penny’s ‘Don’t Turn Away: Stories of troubled minds in fractured times’ has recently been published by Elliott and Thompson, and Chris’s co-edited book ‘Seeking Asylum and Mental Health: A practical guide for … Continue reading Silence may be golden……..

Looking forward

Everybody’s looking forward: to the data enabling the dates; to the vaccine offering protection; to families and friends meeting, playing and sporting; to businesses opening doors and tills. Optimism, despite the need for caution, appears almost realistic. But the damage that we will also face is, frankly, frightening. With countless livelihoods lost, poverty and inequality … Continue reading Looking forward

In Place of Fear – an on-going conversation.

Last week, John, Chris and myself, the three authors of Intelligent Kindness, did a webinar for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, ‘In Place of Fear’ You can watch it here if you’re interested: In Place of Fear We provoked some interesting discussion, and the hour flew by quickly with themes left hanging and questions left … Continue reading In Place of Fear – an on-going conversation.

Human nature: fragments from 2020

Months of various degrees of lockdown have squished my memory, fusing time, order and clarity but some scenes will remain etched for ever.  I share them with you in no particular order but I shall start with my Dad’s illness and death in December which for obvious reasons loom large. The grim night I spent  … Continue reading Human nature: fragments from 2020

A Conspiracy?

I’ve been surprisingly preoccupied by what a man from Hull said to a Guardian reporter recently.  Unlike other angry conspiracy theorists, he fully accepts that the Coronavirus is real, but he believes that it is being deployed to kill off the poor, especially everyone on benefits. Now, as all readers will know, there has been … Continue reading A Conspiracy?

We need to talk about Death

In the early days of the pandemic, during those balmy April days when the sun shone down on grassy verges bursting to life at the sides of empty roads, whilst health care staff were managing levels of agonising illness and mortality they had never experienced before, it only took a blackbird singing or a particularly … Continue reading We need to talk about Death

A holiday snap

Forgive the silence.  Odd as it may seem, Penny and I have been on something called a holiday. I know that many others have tried it, with mixed results, ranging from being caught by sudden quarantine restrictions, to finding bookings cancelled, through to the simpler surprise and pleasure of actually getting a break. Ours was … Continue reading A holiday snap

The Erosion of Social Capital

Thank you to Toni Fazaeli for her response to my last blog post, drawing my attention to an article in the New Scientist on ‘Missed Connections’. The article focuses on social connections, from casual conversations on the bus to relationships with extended family and friends. All are much reduced in the present circumstances, and closely … Continue reading The Erosion of Social Capital

Beyond the first wave

It is, of course, tempting to itemise the ample downside of government strategy, advice and action, whatever they have got right. There is just so much to choose from - responding too late, inadequate supplies of PPE, putting care home staff and residents at lethal risk, the incompetent ‘contracted out’ test and trace system, and … Continue reading Beyond the first wave

Questions, questions, questions….

What has been going on with Covid-19 in Leicester? I’m intrigued. The high number of cases, identified in early June  - now thankfully coming down - has not been reflected in a significant increase in hospital admissions or even clinical presentations to GPs. Why should this be? Back in June, when it was clear that … Continue reading Questions, questions, questions….

It’s getting darker

While worst case predictions suggest up to 120,000 more UK Covid deaths this winter, we face a dangerous co-morbidity: the virus and politics.  Of course politics has infected our response to the virus from the start, but a new mutation is fast spreading. When every effort should be being made to learn from the last … Continue reading It’s getting darker

The Longest Lock-down in the World

Leicester citizens are struggling. We knew there was a local spike in cases of Covid-19 and thought the powers-that-be might delay shops, pubs and restaurants opening in parts of the city, but the announcement of such a strict lock-down came as a horrible shock. Up till then, it had felt as if our hopes had … Continue reading The Longest Lock-down in the World

Social Distancing?

Let’s start with Penny’s niece, ‘A’, the in-patient nurse working in a mental health ward for older people, who she wrote about in her last post.  You’ll remember that she and her colleagues were not deemed to need testing, despite intimate work with very vulnerable, elderly patients, one of whom had tested positive for Covid-19. … Continue reading Social Distancing?

Moral Injury

Since the pandemic started, I have been offering psychological support to staff working on Covid19 wards in the local hospitals, as well as speaking to friends and family on the ‘frontline’.  “I feel like a bad nurse”, or a variation on this theme, is probably the most common sentiment expressed – be it nurse, doctor, … Continue reading Moral Injury

The centre cannot hold

When, in what feels like another universe, Chris Grayling awarded a contract for Brexit-related Channel ferries to a firm with no experience, or ships, there was much amusement, as well as downright despairing fury. This followed his destructive privatisation of much of the probation service: an utterly inept, and pretty catastrophic, intervention, which, in May … Continue reading The centre cannot hold

‘Turning a blind eye’

Well the last blog seemed to attract very mixed responses with some people feeling I should have expressed more obvious fury. In fact, I’ve been outraged for many years with the role Dominic Cummings has taken in government. But I was interested in coming at the story from a different angle and had been quite … Continue reading ‘Turning a blind eye’

Granny Deprivation

Last week we held a virtual family bake-off to celebrate my grand-daughter, Poppy’s first birthday. A lovely occasion but the context made it poignant. I would  give a lot to have her warm little body cuddled-up in my lap, or play ‘this little piggy went to market’ with her tiny toes, or feel the triumphant … Continue reading Granny Deprivation

Lashing back – 2

Much debate has been evident about how long the public’s patience with lockdown rules will last. Questions are being asked about what kind of irresponsible infection-spreading behaviours may emerge as restrictions are lifted.  This is a very serious and vital concern.  We do need, though, to begin to think much more seriously about the feelings … Continue reading Lashing back – 2

Lashing back – 1

A couple of days after reading Penny’s cheering post about community and collaboration, I visited our local shop: the one she described as making such a positive contribution to our community.  Behind the counter, shielded a little by the plastic screen, was one of the staff, a young woman.  She was obviously distressed, and had … Continue reading Lashing back – 1

Community and creativity: doing our best for each other

There is a deep-seated impulse in most of us to roll our sleeves up and try to engage with, and help each other, in a crisis. Most of my career as a medical psychotherapist was spent running a therapeutic community for young adults whose personalities had been pushed badly out of joint by very difficult … Continue reading Community and creativity: doing our best for each other

So what do we do with our anger then?

I’m left wanting to pick up a difficult issue in Chris and John’s blog on the harmful effects of Blame. Of course I understand that Covid-19 is beyond anyone’s control, that people were going to die however prepared and competent our leaders. I understand that our need to blame someone in these circumstances can make … Continue reading So what do we do with our anger then?

Following the science

The British Government have made much of the idea that all their decisions during the pandemic have been led by science.  I find this both encouraging and slightly alarming.  Encouraging because we seem, as others have pointed out, to have emerged from a period of denial of the value of ‘experts’, a time when it … Continue reading Following the science

So where are the kids?

Someone needs to think about our nurseries. Most of them are closed although they are supposed to be open for the children of key workers. I’ve heard frontline staff complain that even where they are open, they are reluctant to take the children of NHS workers because of the perceived risk of infection – so … Continue reading So where are the kids?

Carers in the shadows: confronting our demons

What can we say when staff in care homes and community care organisations plead for resources and recognition?  How do we respond to the distress they are feeling, as they witness severe illness, and unprecedented numbers of deaths, among their residents and clients?  How can we do justice to and support the value of their … Continue reading Carers in the shadows: confronting our demons

The containing role of leadership

I am a republican through and through and have never had much interest in the extravagant rituals and seedy scandals that surround our royal family. Nevertheless, the Queen in her old-age has grown on me, and her address to the nation last Sunday seemed to manage a level of wisdom and humanity that our politicians … Continue reading The containing role of leadership

A blame game

No team or group is without members who underperform, either from time to time, or consistently.  Football fans, and observers of successive Cabinets and Shadow Cabinets, will recognise this truth.  They will also attest to the fact that, when blame infects a team, collective morale, resilience and effectiveness decline rapidly.  The blamers are distracted from keeping their own … Continue reading A blame game

All in it together?

It is being said that this pandemic is a great leveller. Oh that it was so. The world waits with trepidation, anticipating the devastating effect that is likely once the virus takes hold and sweeps through countries like Syria already ruined by war, the poorest countries in Africa and Asia, and over-crowded refugee camps.  Here … Continue reading All in it together?

A communications challenge: public and professional

Communication is vital at a time of immense public anxiety, uncertainty and various positive and negative responses to guidance, strategy and delivery of services. Work to understand the various 'audiences', their cultures and preoccupations, their vulnerabilities and their resources, is urgently required. It is not enough to publish lists of 'do's and don'ts', information and … Continue reading A communications challenge: public and professional

Freeing up anxious managers to act intelligently

I’m in touch with frontline staff in different NHS Trusts through my work. The story is the same from each of them: understandable fear for themselves and their patients, amplified by the lack of PPE and ignorant or helpless bureaucratic responses when they complain about this. The virus is now prevalent on many wards, not … Continue reading Freeing up anxious managers to act intelligently


Just now, many of us are improvising – bringing established skill sets to bear on radically different, unfamiliar, situations.  This suits some types of personality more than others, yet we may all have to do it. Over many years the NHS and social care have evolved into ‘command and control’ systems.  Individual responsibility, and even sense of … Continue reading Improvisation