The Good Old Days?
Phelim Brady highlights the value of a compassionate and caring NHS.
The NHS is never out of the media these days and often the focus is on compassion. Most people are full of praise for the care they receive but busy staff can seem unconcerned with our troubles even when they do care. Sometimes there is a real lack of compassion by health service staff. In these circumstances it is tempting to say things were better in the past, but I have a problem with using the past as a favourable comparator because, by and large, things were no better then and often worse!
I was thinking about this as I read a wonderful diary written by a woman who lived in the village of Shere during the Second World War. As this is my last blog before Christmas I thought I would mix health care with the ever-present problem of what to buy someone as a present. Mrs. Miles’s Diary – the wartime journal of a housewife on the home front (Simon & Schuster UK in association with the Imperial War Museums, 2013) is just the thing. Don’t be put off by the title or the cover when you see it; this is a fantastic read and would be a great gift for almost anyone.
Most people are full of praise for the care they receive…
Constance Miles was a ‘housewife’ but also a writer and journalist who lived with her husband, a retired Major who had fought in the first war. She had two sons who were both in the forces, one of whom was a doctor. During the war she faithfully recorded her thoughts and the events going on around her. She paid regular visits to Guildford to shop and also went to London to visit friends and to talk to her publisher. For anyone familiar with this part of Surrey today, her account of the war years is fascinating.
Her diary is not just a simple description of events but a commentary on them by someone with the compassion and humanity of a writer such as Camus. Indeed the diary reminded me of his famous account of a doctor trying to deal with a plague. Camus’ Dr Rieux has little to fight the plague with apart from compassion and his humanity. Mrs. Miles deals with the horrors around her in much the same way. Consider her entry for the 4th November 1940: – “…one plane came down on Netley Heath…the crew were blown to smithereens and a hand of one of the Hun fliers was proudly carried around – how often had that boy’s mother held his hand tenderly!”
Connie Miles sees the behaviour of her contemporaries with a compassionate but cold eye. She talks about the Beveridge Report that is in the news and hopes it will be implemented fully and bring compassion for the sick and those who care for, and love them. She sees better than her husband and the other men around her that the war will last years, not months, and that while they find some excitement in it, women see it for what it is. In one entry she says: “This war is …particularly hard on women, who loathe it all.”
If you are worried about compassion in the NHS today, why not visit the NHS Guildford and Waverley Clinical Commissioning Group website and read our safeguarding statements and don’t hesitate to contact us if you are aware of a problem.