Action for NHS Wellbeing was established in Sept 2013 by Dr Chris Manning in an organic evolution of his professional networking skills, bringing together people of like-mind or like-heart to address the current tsunami of discontent and malaise in the medical profession and the NHS at large.
A forum was established on the internet via the use of Basecamp. People were invited and welcomed to join if they had an interest in and were active in the field of promoting NHS wellbeing. A diverse group of practitioners of different disciplines has been established ensuring a rich exchange of experiences and views on different topics.
As baseline a core set of aims and objectives were established with the core fundamental principle being that whether we work in or use the services of the NHS, ‘we are all people first and foremost.’ Our shared humanity is the common denominator – thus it is irrelevant whether we are nurses, doctors, psychologists or any other type of practitioner – we first and foremost relate to each other as human beings.
It is clear to all of us that what we currently have is not working and that change is called for, a different way is needed. We may not all agree on the exact nature of that change and what is required but the advantage of Basecamp is that we get to hear and exchange views on many different topics and to expand our horizons beyond our own perspective.
The forum on Basecamp facilitates:
- Sharing of articles, blogs, news-stories that are pertinent to the subject of wellbeing.
- Networking with like-minded/hearted individuals
- Sharing of our own views in a safe and non-judgmental environment, with the option to challenge currently accepted practices and dogmas.
- Establishing face to face meetings and opportunities for the group to come together to establish the way forward and continue the forward momentum.
- The creation of a website with stated aims and objectives and a blog for sharing some of the views and discussions of those on Basecamp to provide a visible face for the activity that goes on behind the scenes.
- Being made aware of activity that is going on behind the scenes in discussion with government groups, political bodies, medical colleges, politicians and the medical establishment.
- The realisation that we are not alone and that there are others scattered across the UK in different disciplines who are working in the field of wellbeing.
- A community of people who care about people and who want to see care for all, staff and patients, at the heart of the NHS.
It is a growing, evolving and organic collection of people who participate to the level they want to. Emails can be turned off if anyone’s inbox feels too overloaded giving control and autonomy to each individual.
However, it is important that we do not become comfortable with our sharings and exchanges and think that that is enough. As a group we have a stronger voice than the individual and we need to make use of that voice, to use the collective power of our expression to increase awareness and influence both the medical and political establishments in a direction that puts people first in a way that is real and tangible and doesn’t just pay politically correct lip-service to the notion.
On top of that it requires us to live the change we want to see, to emulate the ways we want the health service to be. If we want a caring compassionate service, then we need to be caring and compassionate with ourselves first. There is no point talking the talk, if it is not lived and walked. Telling people is very different to presenting people with a lived way that can be felt and seen and thus known to be true. It is not selfish to put ourselves first when it comes to care, for if we do not care for ourselves first we cannot have a lived quality of care to share with others. It is actually the opposite of being selfish – for it is done in order to share a true quality of lived care with all others, with no-one lesser or higher.
There is more to self-care than meets the eye – it is an ever-deepening and unfolding evolution of our relationship with ourselves that can serve to deepen and enrich our lives to no end. Self-care is formed through the practice of observing, feeling and responding to our needs and includes all decisions people make for themselves towards a better quality of life; physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically. It involves understanding why we make the choices we make and what the underlying drives and motivations are and the factors influencing those behaviours, especially when they are detrimental to health and wellbeing.
Self-care sits at the heart of care for all and needs to be embedded not just in medical schools and nurse training colleges, but in all education systems far and wide.
The more self-caring we become we can feel stronger and empowered to make changes and to say No to ways of being and living that are not caring – both for ourselves and from others. We are more willing to call out that which is harming and not serving, to say no to abuse and bullying in all its forms and to challenge the status quo – and the status quo needs to be challenged. Our comfort buttons may get pressed but perhaps they need a little pressing!
However, it is clear that repeating that which has not worked again and again is insane – as Einstein said, “no problem can be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it” and therefore we need a new way of thinking to address these issues. That way of thinking or form of intelligence is derived from the heart and with it comes a whole new way of seeing and understanding ourselves and the world.
In my view, the wisdom of love is the missing ingredient in healthcare today on many levels. It is ironic, is it not, that the one thing that can truly help is currently a taboo subject in medicine? So yes, there will be many challenges ahead, breaking down hard-headed beliefs, misunderstandings and misinterpretations in order to open hearts and expand awareness so that the current chaos and mayhem can be addressed in a way that is truly healing for all.
At the same time as deepening our own levels of self-care, we need to address the many system factors that contribute to the current discontent, to raise awareness of key issues with medical and political bodies, influencing policy and culture, what is accepted and what is not. For too long the medical profession has been silent and we have been unwilling to stick our heads above the parapet for fear of being seen to be a trouble-maker or creating professional compromise, on top of the fact that by nature we tend to be addicted to approval and have difficulty saying no or standing apart from the crowd.
Professional apathy and not choosing to speak up about the issues within our profession and the culture of medicine is still a choice – and it has been a costly one for many. How many lives need to be lost before we say ENOUGH? How many lives need to be lost before we see that ‘the way it is’ – is not working and not healthy? How many lives need to be lost before we get off our pedestals, crack our arrogance and come down to earth and join the rest of humanity? How many lives need to be lost before we have the humility to be open to different ways of understanding ourselves and life without always first chanting the mantra ‘show me the evidence’?
There is much that can be said on these topics and I am only scratching the surface here. Many topics are shared and discussed on Basecamp and there is awareness that both system and personal factors need to be addressed if we are to engender a culture of wellbeing in the NHS – one where each person, whether they are a patient, cleaner, porter, nurse, doctor or the CEO feels valued, cared for and respected by themselves, their colleagues, their bosses, their professional carers and their environment – now surely that is something worth standing up for?
© Eunice J Minford