When I’m not working at Headspace Guildford, I work at St George’s Hospital in London. More of my time and headspace has been there in recent weeks, because of coronavirus.
I am proud to work for the NHS, but not just because of the times we find ourselves in. I’ve always been proud to work for the NHS. It has many failings but it’s staffed by the most incredible people who work hard and are incredibly skilled, thoughtful and caring. It provides free care to anyone, whoever you are and it does so to the best of it’s imperfect ability.
I know the NHS sometimes misses appointments, sees people late and makes people wait hours in A&E or months for surgery. I know sometimes people are surly or rude or lack bedside manner. But I also know that it saves peoples lives every day, some people are seen on time, sometimes A&E targets are met and some people are incredibly kind and thoughtful and even go above and beyond to help patients. I know that when someone dies the staff mourn too, and do whatever they can to support those families. I know that when someone survives the NHS often offers support for as long as that person needs it, often for years and years. I know that it listens to it’s patients, even the rude and aggressive ones. I know it’s full of people just trying to do a good job.
The NHS, in all it’s imperfect glory is being heralded as full of heros, and the ‘front line’ of this virus. The fighting talk has helped some and bothered others. What happens if you’re not donning PPE to go and work on adult intensive care, but are going into the hospital to see children admitted with a brain tumour. Is this still the front line? What about if you’re working from home calling families or care homes where someone has a learning disability and helping them manage lockdown, or doing remote therapy, or online check ups. Is this the front line?
I think the dichotomy isn’t helpful. It is scary and hard for a lot of people, but it is also staff doing what they have always done. Caring for the people who need support and care. Treating the patients who need treating. They are being incredible. Brave and kind and strong and tenacious. They are heroic. But there’s always been a touch of the hero about them. Because they chose to do those jobs. Chose to work in intensive care looking after the sickest people and wiping their bottoms when they go to the loo. Or chose to work with dying children, or challenging behaviour. That’s pretty impressive. Many of them could be earning more or face less dissatisfaction or abuse working somewhere else. But they don’t. They chose to work in the NHS.
So clap for the NHS, but not just because it might save your life now, but because it’s been there for you for your whole life. I hope we can come out of this recognising that just because something isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it’s not amazing