Thursday, 29 November 2007

To Lower Oneself.......

Trevor and I delivered another “Trust Me I’m A Patient” role-playing workshop to 120 people on Monday at the East Midlands Hilton Hotel for the NHS ‘Improvement Foundation’. Attendees were a mixture of NHS managers, frontline staff and patients.

The objective of this workshop is to help people look at change from a different perspective; seeing change through others’ eyes. In brief, the scenario is that there are proposals for 3 GP surgeries to close and be replaced by one large, modern health centre on the edge of town. The press have published the story before patients or surgery staff have been advised of the changes. The handling of the project has been a shambles, caused through a lack of communication. It is a realistic scenario.

To date we have facilitated 18 of these workshops to more than 1000 delegates. At the end of the workshop we ask participants to complete a short evaluation form; ticking boxes to give their opinion of the workshop - very poor, poor, average, good or very good. We ask them the best part of the workshop and also what could be improved. In our previous 17 workshops, I think there has only been one ‘poor’ a handful of ‘average’ and an abundance of ‘good’ or ‘very good’ ticks.

Monday told a different story. Out of the 48 evaluation forms returned we received 5 ‘very poor’, 6 ‘poor’, 11 ‘average’, 12 ‘good’ and 14 ‘very good’. 72 participants did not fill in their forms.

Trevor and I invite criticism but we are disappointed by Monday’s response. From the ‘very poor’ forms, participants wrote that our workshop was set at too low a level, ie. for staff low down in the NHS tree, not for staff of senior level. The workshop was ‘juvenile’ and we weren’t telling them anything they didn’t already know. One person wrote that if she wanted to become an actor, she would have enrolled at RADA instead of finding employment at the NHS!

As a little girl, I never ever dreamed of being an NHS role-player and facilitator, just as probably most managers in the NHS never dreamed of being chief executives or patient and public involvement managers. Sometimes our jobs occur by accident rather than by choice but we either muddle on blindly or we develop a conscience and strive to be the best we can possibly be.

Trevor and I are committed Christians and have speculated the idea of advancing our bible study at a theological college. When we moved to a new village in July, we decided to join an Alpha course at our local church. Alpha is designed as an introduction to the Christian faith and I was uncertain that this was the right course for us. After all, there is no hesitation about our commitment and we attended an Alpha course a couple of years ago. I couldn’t see the point in taking a step backwards. Trevor was keen to do it again so we joined and I am so pleased for his better judgement. We are ‘back to basics’ and learning things we missed last time in addition to sharing our faith with others. This is merely an analogy and I am not writing this as a bible basher or trying to convert anyone [honestly]. The point I’m making is that these NHS managers might like to think about going ‘back to basics’. The workshop is an opportunity to engage with other staff of ‘lower levels’ (to use this person’s language). Sometimes, workshops and conferences are not just about what we can learn but about what we can give. Perhaps these NHS high-level people who feel that our workshop is set at too low a level for them, would consider following Sir Richard Branson’s example. He frequently returns to the shop floor – and I suspect that he learns and gives every time.

Our workshop was never designed to find solutions to NHS improvement. The answers are already within the minds of the staff and patients.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Swimmers throw abuse at injured servicemen in pool

My blood was boiling earlier today, despite the icy temperatures.

I was deeply saddened to hear about the abuse hurled at injured servicemen, during their hydro-physiotherapy treatment at Leatherhead Leisure Centre. Many of the soldiers had lost limbs or suffered burns and the weekly swim was to boost their rehabilitation.

"One woman, believed to be in her 30s, was so incensed that the soldiers - many of them amputees having returned from conflicts in the Middle East and Asia - were using the pool that she told them that they did not deserve to be there. It is alleged that she told the men that she pays to swim there and they do not. According to witnesses she was so abusive that the soldiers' instructor pulled the groups out of the water to avoid further embarrassment," it was reported on Surrey Online

There has got to be a compromise here. I understand that some people might recoil at the horrors of physical disabilities. On the radio today I heard it reported that one mother said that it was upsetting for her children to witness amputees and victims of burns.

I should like to respond to her....

"What about these brave men who have suffered to give freedom to others? It may be upsetting for your children, but this is the reality of war!"

I don't mean to sound harsh or judgmental, but I feel so disappointed at this abuse. I wonder how this woman would feel, God forbid, if she or her children became disabled or lost limbs? How would she feel if people treated them like lepers?

Where is the compromise? To segregate injured soldiers from the general public? To build a purpose-built pool for the disabled? To allow the disfigured to swim with adults only? I don't know the answer, and call me an old fool if you want, but I just want these wonderful people to be loved and treated with respect, equality and gratitude.

See here for Daily Mirror report.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Acorn Antiques

Having recently acquired a DVD of the Acorn Antiques series, I felt highly cheered after watching it last night.

I'd forgotten how funny this plotless series is with it's wobbly scenery, lack of continuity and hilarious acting! Here's a sample of the dialogue between Babs (owner of Acorns Antiques) and Mrs Overall (the tea lady)

Babs: Here I am blabbing away about my own troubles and I never asked you about your husband's car crash.

Mrs O: Oh he's dead Miss Babs. In fact I was going to ask you if I could have a couple of hours off on Thursday for the funeral.

Babs: Of Course. Just pop back at five for the hoovering. What happened?

Mrs O: His heart stopped beating.

Babs: Oh no.

Mrs O: Yes, well, sometimes that's God's way of telling you you're dead. Not to worry, Bingo tonight.

Hehe - a few titters certainly help ease the winter blues! I've yet to see the musical version, though I do have a copy on DVD. Can't wait!

What has made YOU laugh lately?

Thursday, 15 November 2007

'Constant Changes'

This photo was taken in February 2006 and bloggers may wonder about this class of pensioners (apart from me at the back, 2nd left!)
In truth, I joined this wonderful 'Poetry & Prose in Performance' class in September 1988 when my son was just 3 months old (he's 19 now and lives in London!) and I was the baby in a class of 'mature' students. Sadly, many of the original 'team' from those early days have died and indeed, 2 of the students from this photo passed away this year. One has left due to severe depression, one has had a leg amputated and the lady in the middle, front, is 91 and has had to give up due to progressive deafness.
Bernard, the only man in the group still attends (and gives me my weekly hug) and so does Vera, the teacher, front left. The 2 ladies at the rear, right are still in the class.
In the last 19 years, I have married, had a 2nd child, divorced, had a 9-year soul-destroying relationship with someone else (and escaped, thank God) and met and married my knight in shining armour, my wonderful Trevor who I love so very deeply.
Still, the poetry & prose in performance class continues, and I owe so much to this group, who have known me with 3 different surnames. They have seen me young, expectant, desolate, near-suicidal and now, middle-aged and contented, no, gloriously happy and filled with faith and the love of God. They have supported my professional acting work and been a willing audience when practising for my numerous exam medals, with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art ('Acting' and 'The Speaking of Verse & Prose'). Those surviving members who have put up with me for nearly 2 decades deserve medals themselves!
Is there a constant in YOUR ever-changing world?

Friday, 9 November 2007

Wear Your Poppy With Pride (Inside)

Trevor and I spent this afternoon in prison - as visitors, I hasten to add.

We went through vigorous security checks, lasting for more than an hour. We each took 2 forms of ID, we went through an infra-red machine, were searched thoroughly and Trevor had his thumb-print photographed (required for male visitors only as it was a prison for men). We had our mouths inspected on 3 separate occasions and were checked by sniffer dogs for drugs. Our hands were brushed with some kind of invisible liquid, which showed up on an ultraviolet machine, which served as a permit to exit the prison after our visit. Trevor also had his thumb-print verified on 4 occasions. We had a book, a mouth spray and some tissue temporarily confiscated as NOTHING was allowed in.

All this security and no-one happened to notice the large safety pin I was wearing to attach a poppy to my jacket. It makes you think doesn't it? It's a stringent procedure to prevent drugs entering the prison, which I'm totally in favour of, but sharp dangerous objects? I must admit, I didn't even give it a thought until we were leaving the prison and obviously neither did anyone else.

Safety pins aside, this was our first prison visit and the staff were commendable. They were helpful and efficient and we were impressed.