This is a difficult piece for me to write, but it has to be done as my only direct experience of what many of you see on a daily basis.
The fluorescent lights in the ceiling were immensely bright, the corridors clean and stark, painted white, I recall, with a blue skirting board. I was sitting with my wife and her parents in a very small room on very uncomfortable chairs waiting to be updated. All of our faces no doubt bore the haunted expression of people who know that the wheel of time is turning, remorselessly and unstoppably, towards a terrible moment.
Our youngest son, Oliver, was fighting for his life following emergency surgery to try to stabilise the cancer that was rampaging through him. It was a fight he could not win, despite the extraordinary efforts of the medical team who had dashed from all corners of the hospital estate to the recovery room to try to save him when the inevitable complications had presented themselves.
When we were finally called through to be given the tragic news I remember the impossible grief that seized control of me, but also, with still pin-point, hi-definition accuracy 21 years later, the faces of that medical team. Several were slumped on the floor, their backs propped against a wall. Two had their heads in their hands and were, I am certain, weeping. Another was standing at the window, holding the ledge for support, staring out over the city of Cardiff. His face horror-struck and mortified. One of the nursing staff was being consoled by a consultant. Meanwhile, well, you may be able to imagine the scene of my own family, but I doubt it.
With the utmost kindness the senior surgeon explained what had happened, his face etched with fatigue and desolation. I won’t share the details with you, but they had worked incredibly to save him. Now Oliver was gone and we would have to go home to try to rebuild our lives. The medical team, meanwhile, after a short rest, would no doubt be called upon again and again to undertake similar tasks.
I tell you all of this because you will recall similar scenes that you have witnessed in your hospitals, care homes, medical centres, and even people’s homes. Whether the outcomes are positive or negative, one thing is clear – we all have a finite reservoir of resilience and emotional balance. If we allow the reservoir to drain away then we are in trouble – and sometimes a circumstance comes along, out of the blue, which takes huge reserves out of us. You have now read of my own.
Right now that circumstance is Covid-19. From the tear stained faces of care home managers brave enough to stand in front of TV cameras to testify to resident deaths, to the impossibly fatigued and care-worn faces of nursing staff coming off a shift in full PPE, we have seen the evidence of what happens when the reservoir runs dry – and yet now, it is certain, we are asking staff to go through it all again as the second wave breaks over our heads.
Workforce welfare is talked about but it is often something tagged on to agendas. If we have time – perhaps under ‘any other business’.
At the IHM we feel that it is time to push it up the agenda and so I am delighted, following a recent meeting of brilliant members from our North West Region, to announce the immediate formation of a special interest group –Workforce Welfare. 4 members from the North West have already stepped forward to be involved. So my editorial this week invites you to join the group too.
There will be bi-monthly virtual meetings, conferences, workshops and reports – all designed to help with the identification and sharing of ideas and best practice solutions around workforce welfare. Do please consider joining and contact me directly to do so: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy your weekend and thank you for the brilliant work you are all doing.
My first week in the new role has flown by and I want to take a moment to thank both Pauline Bolt (our Membership Services Manager) and Jade Maloney (our Executive Administrator). They have been so incredibly welcoming to me, made it clear that no question is silly and instantly made me feel like I belong here.
It made me think more about the concept of belonging, put simply it means acceptance as a member or part. It’s a basic human need, like food and a roof over our heads. Without it, we can feel isolated and lonely. The need to belong to a community goes back tens of thousands of years, when your survival relied on you being part of a group to stand up to predators.
As a group, our members are coming together and building a community where health and social care leaders can collaborate and work together. One where parity of esteem, respect and mutual understanding will be built. Where individual and collective confidence will soar, and great things will happen.
We are living and working in incredibly challenging times, and now more than ever, it is crucial that health and social care colleagues come together to work in partnership. Please do signpost your social care colleagues to our dedicated area on the website: https://ihm.org.uk/social-care/
General Manager for Social Care.