Monday, 16 June 2014

Nursing and what really matters

John Walsh at Men's Health Week event at the Crypt
alongside Councillor Mulherin
On Monday 9 June I attended the Nursing Times Leaders event in London. This was an award ceremony for the top 50 nursing leaders in the UK. It was to honour nurses and midwives who are "pioneers, entrepreneurs and inspirational role models in their profession...practitioners who have changed practice for the better, shown visionary thinking, had a major positive impact." (Jenni Middleton, editor of the Nursing Times, official brochure). The awards were decided by a very esteemed panel including Dame Christine Beasley. The night was a wonderful celebration of people who have made the NHS what it is at its best. It was a great privilege to be there. I was there as the guest of my dear friend, colleague and mentor, Yvonne Coghill, the national lead for inclusion at the NHS Leadership Academy. Yvonne herself won one of the awards.

I met many good people that evening. It was great to meet NHS leaders such as Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer and Caroline Alexander, chief nurse for the London region. It was a special moment to join senior colleagues from the NHS Leadership Academy to support and celebrate our Yvonne winning this award. Meeting Dr Dave Ashton and Karen Lynas from the Academy was a real joy too. They are two fabulous people and we had some great discussions about how the Leadership Academy and York Street/Leeds Community Healthcare (LCH) can work together to develop the best patient care models, staff and leadership development and work for and in the city of Leeds.  I hope these exchanges can continue as they hold tremendous promise and possibility.
So what really matters for nursing and all health professions in the NHS? To answer this I think we have to answer why, despite all the current problems, the NHS is still popular with the mass of British people. Why it still holds such a special place in the minds and hearts of a nation? I think the answer is that the NHS is special because it makes us feel special. And it makes us feel special because it promotes and incarnates the most powerful of human virtues - goodness. It connects us with this in a very real way. It is a commitment to care, to heal, to do good. It represents this a social body and daily practice. That's why Mid Staffs was so appalling and shocking to us. The very spirit and heart of the NHS was denied and subverted by awful practice and culture. A healing service ended up it's opposite. When people see the NHS in it's real form, they remember the fantastic nursing team that looked after their mum. They think of the kind doctor who was so helpful to them when they had a medical problem. After nearly twenty years working with homeless people on the streets of Leeds, it's exactly the same. It's the goodness and kindness that breaks through. It's goodness that starts to transform us. I've seen big tough men, no strangers to the police and prison system, crying at some act of genuine goodness that has affected their lives. I have also seen where homeless people have been lit up with happiness as they have shared what little they had with others. There's an immense energy and power in goodness. Yet I think goodness isn't an easy thing to define. It's more felt than spelt out. Most of us will know when we encounter it. It lifts us up and makes us open to hope and engagement. Goodness is a mirror that shows us what we can be. I believe goodness is what all of us in the NHS need. It is what makes everything else tick. From the 6 C's through to vision and values to good patient care, goodness has to be the core and life.

This bring me to Yvonne. Yvonne is someone with many gifts and qualities. The list of these would be a very long one. Intelligence, courage, integrity, compassion, wisdom ,strength, gentleness, energy, panoramic vision, deep psychological insight (she's the best psychologist I know), fairness, understanding and so on. For me the one defining quality one sees shining in Yvonne - the jewel in the crown so to speak -is goodness. I don't find it a surprise that what makes the NHS an incredible service at its best is what makes Yvonne such a wonderful human being. Yvonne is a very special person in a very special service. It's people like Yvonne who show us the best in ourselves and encourage its manifestation.  I feel very blessed to know Yvonne as mentor and friend. I'll finish this posting sending Yvonne from all her friends at LCH a big well done for the award and an even bigger thank you for what she is and does for this service of ours. 

John Walsh, York Street Practice

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