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Why I do what I do
As the NHS marks its 70th anniversary, an acute medicine consultant and national clinical advisor pays tribute to the passion and dedication of NHS staff, and recognises how patients’ trust is the greatest compliment that can be given:
I want to begin by thanking NHS staff and carers, who day in and day out, and often over many generations of families, make the needs of others their vocation.
A passion for care is within the NHS’s DNA; the envy of the world.
All the messages of thanks and gratitude surrounding the NHS’ 70th birthday made me think about those people working in the ‘shadows’ without direct patient care, the many non-clinical roles, who do their jobs and fulfil their vocations without the thanks that is commonplace in the clinical world.
Without these staff, we would not be able to deliver the care that continues to make the NHS so outstanding.
In the words of a hospital chaplain who spoke to a group of us upon joining a south coast hospital, years ago: “You are all amazing people, you had many other choices, but you have picked the service of others – in their darkest hours – who are ill, who need support, in whom you can make a difference and show compassion”.
He later went on to urge us to think of every patient as our mum, and to not let silo thinking cloud our judgement over who should look after a patient and in what environment. A wise man indeed.
This is a contagious and inspirational concept, it rubs off on us, most noticeably when we see it in our most junior colleagues.
As healthcare professionals we must all be better at appreciating the bigger picture, that our interaction with a patient is one small component and no matter how good our interventions are, if what we do doesn’t align or marry well with the healthcare pathway, we lessen the potential for optimal outcomes.
We pride ourselves on the pursuit of the greater good, and we should display this in our tolerance of standardisation and its potential overall benefits. The success of West of England AHSN and Liverpool’s UC24 at this year’s BMJ awards with pan regional National Early Warning Scores (NEWS) implementation is a prime example.
I try to go to International Healthcare Quality conferences, seeking to learn how the NHS can aspire to be better, and often get asked why and how the NHS consistently punches above its weight. Year in, year out, it tops the polls of the best healthcare systems – safest, best value, efficient, effective, timely and equitable – as voted for by patients and professionals.
The people that ask are often health economists or leaders, seeking the secret sauce. My two-word response often baffles them…the people.
My response is not just about the wonderful NHS staff, but also our great British public.
They put their trust in the NHS, they believe in its founding principles and are our greatest and most ardent supporters. I suspect no other country has such an amazing fan base, and they are to be treasured.
Watching the World Cup recently reminded me about the end of Arsène Wenger’s era at Arsenal and of a recent interview with him:
Q: “What is the most inspirational thing anyone ever said to you?”
A: “I trust you”
I urge you to think about this in your encounters with patients and their families. Just as the defining moment at introduction should always be, “Hello, my name is….” Our closure should be: “Thank you for trusting me”.
Sometimes that trust that is put in us is a ‘whites of the eyes moment’ and a most sacred bond, where we acknowledge receipt of the greatest compliment that can be given and promise to do our very best to work in our patients’ best interests.
This, quite simply, is why I do what I do.
Made me think again and remind myself why I do what I do – thank you