My social media feed has been filled with posts about Jo Cox MP. I’m sure yours has too. I’m not sure where or how to start this blog, but writing about anything other than the multitude of awful things that appear to be going on in the world just didn’t seem right. I noticed some people shared the news on FaceBook simply by saying “no words”. In some ways that’s how I feel, yet I’m going to write some.
I’m generally a positive, up beat kind of guy. I see the best in people, and expect people to behave in ways that align to my own values. In the face of Jo Cox’s murder, which comes swiftly on the back of terror attacks in Orlando, I am confronted with the reality that some people’s values are so far removed from my own that I am left confused and lost for words. We like to believe that life is good, and getting better. We like to believe that we can do or achieve anything if we put our minds to it. We like to believe we can persuade people to do what’s right. I like to believe all of those thing. Am I being naive?
I cannot help but think about the individual stories of pain that are behind the headlines we read. We see the numbers of people killed in Orlando. 49 people in a nightclub. 49 people out to enjoy themselves, with no thought of malice or intent to harm. 49 people with relatives, friends, loved ones. 49 people who have left behind scores of people personally affected, bereaved, traumatised, scared. 49 people whose deaths will continue to affect the lives of those who cared for them. Jo Cox had a husband and children. She will have had wider family members, friends, colleagues and constituents who valued her leadership and advocacy.
Individual stories get lost in media headlines.
As you look around you will see that the world is not always a great place. There is murder, terrorism and war. The are floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and hurricanes. There are illnesses and diseases. There are individuals facing the consequences of these things all the time.
From my perspective as a GP I see the personal stories of loss and struggles with illness. Many of the people I see don’t look ill, yet their outward appearance is not a reflection of their inner turmoil. One of the points of a previous blog was that you never know what others have gone through, or are going through right now. We may all change our social media profile pictures to show solidarity for Paris, Brussells or Orlando, but this doesn’t happen often for the person living down the road who’s just been bereaved. Yet the trauma of losing your loved one to a sudden heart attack can be just as real as if they had been the victim of terrorism.
The world is full of personal tragedies. Most of them will never make the news. They are tragedies nevertheless. As a doctor and a health commissioner I need to remember this daily. I need to remember that people are people, not numbers. I need to remember that those seeing me may be anxious, troubled or stressed. I need to remember that treating all with care and compassion can make a real difference. Personal greetings, taking time, listening, understanding. Small, easy things, yet full of such power to help.
So, what should we do in the face of the awful things we see in the world? Should we rage and shout and threaten and seek to take revenge? Surely not. Filling the world with more hate just plays into the hands of those inciting violence. If my life experiences, values and beliefs have taught me anything it is that we should love. Not a word often used in professional circles, but one I would like us to reclaim. There should be more love in the world. Why do we leave this most powerful of emotions to the song writers, poets, novelists and film makers? Let us remember that the patients we treat love and are loved. Let us acknowledge that for many of us we are driven by a love for those very same patients, towns, and communities. Even more, can we acknowledge our love for our colleagues and co-workers? For the people who make our working lives more fun, more interesting, worth getting out of bed for?
What am I saying then? What is my conclusion following all that is going on and how does it relate to the NHS?
I think I am saying that we should love and not hate, talk and don’t shout, welcome and not push away, give and not take, be open not closed. These attributes and values need to apply to us all, but I can clearly see how a compassionate, caring NHS needs to embrace them. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all acted like this? Wouldn’t the NHS be a better place if we treated individuals as individuals. I have previously quoted the NHS constitution in my blogs. I will end by quoting the first paragraph again here:
“The NHS belongs to the people.
It is there to improve our health and wellbeing, supporting us to keep mentally and physically well, to get better when we are ill and, when we cannot fully recover, to stay as well as we can to the end of our lives. It works at the limits of science – bringing the highest levels of human knowledge and skill to save lives and improve health.
It touches our lives at times of basic human need, when care and compassion are what matter most.”
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @DrJonGriffiths