A Compassionate NHS – Notes on Michael Sheen’s Aneurin Bevan Lecture.

     A week has passed since I listened to Michael Sheen’s lecture, it wasn’t a lecture about the history of the NHS, the one I was expecting. 

     With well informed, insightful rigour the artfully woven narrative plunged deeper, and then deeper still, to reveal the truth at the core of our NHS – Compassion.

     We know, we feel, we hear and see, that this is where its source, its soul, meets ours.  The collective consciousness of our single spirit concealed within a multitude of human forms tricks us but only at the level of consciousness, deep down we know the answer.   It feels good to be reminded to tune out of the  background noise of life, organisational red tape (yes, and the politics) — a mere distraction, a distraction from our purpose, our mission, our commitment to ease the suffering of others.

     There was so much to inspire us from this speech that Nye Bevan himself could be provoked to join the debate.  I scribbled notes furiously into my Moleskin Notebook, reserved sizzlers — and here’s what I heard…

  • Compassion and empathy should form the basis of our decision making.
  • Practice compassion, bit like a muscle that needs exercising.
  • We must travel beyond our own personal borders to show empathy. It takes imaginative transgression to look out of the eyes of another.
  • Exercise your imagination, things aren’t permanent.
  • Nothing about the future is fixed — it can be shaped.
  • Choose to put people back at the heart of the NHS, community and life.
  • Go back to the source of the NHS, what was there?  Tredegarise  (new word for Dr Johnson) the model of care. 
  • We humans are all complex, none of us are ordinary regardless of social status.
  • Develop cooperative models. 
  • Everything takes time, commitment and encouragement.
  • Move beyond silent conformity and use your anger to fuel change.

     And most of all I was blown away by what could have easily come out of a book of NHS good management practice, I believe.

“People who don’t feel listened to and don’t feel they can speak their truth, speak their reality, what’s going on for them —  get frustrated and frustrated energy turns in on itself.

     If people are given the platform to speak and to be listened to and that they can see that things come out of that, then that helps.”

     Bravo Mr Sheen!

     Anyone wondering why they work in the NHS today would be inspired by this, and you can find it on line or the Hay Festival website.

The Aneurin Bevan Lecture – Hay Festival (2017) Michael Sheen



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