As some of us start to enjoy the first tentative signs of spring and try to manage our tiredness and frustration with the last few months of lockdown, spare a thought for the clinicians trying to keep things going in the specialities most affected by Covid19. There is no recovery plan for them at service … Continue reading Caring for the Carers
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
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.
I was told this week about a 93 year old Russian woman, the mother of a friend, who has been talking about these Covid times as being worse than the hardships of living in Russia during the second world war or at any time in between. It’s not the only comparison to the Second World … Continue reading Struggling Against the Grain
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
At a time when mistrust is rife in so many ways, the arrival of vaccination against Covid raises complex issues. Whether people buy in to anti-vax narratives, mistrust big pharma, or simply wonder about the robustness of the evidence for safety from what have been the fastest trials in history, there are real challenges to … Continue reading Confidence
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?
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
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
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
What a relief to hear Chris Whitty and others finally start to talk about the balance of risk. This concept seems to have been sadly lacking from the public discourse over the last few months when it should have been fundamental to our understanding and strategy. Bear with me as I use an example from … Continue reading Balancing Risk
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
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….
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
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
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?
I have avoided writing about mental health services so far, because the subject is too close to my heart and the situation such that I don’t know where to start. But this morning I had an upsetting call from a family member, A, a young nurse on an elderly mental health ward. Since the pandemic … Continue reading Left Behind?
So, a good friend and colleague has just gone back to work after a week off. Turned out to be a terrible week, for one reason or another, but at least he wasn’t at work.He works at the heart of social care. It’s been full-on since the virus started to spread, but as things have … Continue reading How was your holiday?
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
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
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’
Is it possible to write about Dominic Cummings and Intelligent Kindness in the same blog? I’m going to give it a try. First, I have a huge amount of sympathy for an overworked harassed man whose wife contacts him to say she feels so ill she can’t look after their four year old. The situation … Continue reading Cummings and goings
I seem to be the one on this blogging team most preoccupied with dark things. I’m afraid it’s no different today. I’m hearing more and more stories from the ‘front-line’ that worry me. Not, this time, the absence of PPE, or testing – in hospitals, at least, those problems seem to be lessening. Not the … Continue reading Family spats
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
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
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
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
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?
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
There’s such a compelling case for a ‘no-blame culture’ in health and social care that it would have been in place years ago, were it just a matter of deciding to have one. The key element in any ‘no-blame culture’ is that speaking up about errors is a fundamental duty for all involved: and that … Continue reading Blame again…
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?
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
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
Poor Boris Johnson – a life spent anticipating leadership, guiding Britain through hard times, and now he’s just making his own, lone journey. Whatever happens in the next few days, whatever the outcome, he will have faced death alone, as we all do. Hopefully death will have turned away, this time. And, meanwhile, if you … Continue reading Leadership
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
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?
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
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