Thought for the Day - Bishop Tom Butler 21/02/2013
Good morning. Quite early in my ministry I served for five years as a priest in Zambia in Central Africa. On the staff of the new teaching hospital there was an English woman, a surgeon, who like most people in the newly developing country was worked off her feet. She was a person of great compassion and in particular was distressed by the many people in her care who were dying with a disease new to her experience. Busy and exhausted as she was, being a good professional, from time to time, late at night she tried to catch up with her reading of professional journals sent from England. One night she realized that the symptoms which she was seeing in the mysterious disease all around were the same as were being described in a medical paper from California. The disease was HIV AIDS, nobody around her wanted to know, but they soon had to.
What I saw there in that medic, was the capacity for intelligent compassion, and that’s what I want to see in all medics, nurses and care assistants who usually try to serve with dedication in the hospitals and care homes in Britain. Yesterday on this programme we heard that another ireview has been set up, this time to investigate health care assistants in NHS hospitals and care homes.
Well like others, I’ve been shocked at the recent stories of neglect coming from our hospitals although to be honest, I’m not totally surprised. All governments in recent times have been dismayed at the spiralling costs of health care and quite rightly, to control these and to help the public purse and the taxes of you and me, there has been a greater and greater drive after efficiency. But some would argue that one of the consequences of this has been a focus on targets and tables which has led to a tick box culture. Those in the system talk of a climate of fear, and there is, everybody is looking over their shoulder, justifying to the next level up that they have ticked their boxes and met their targets. And that culture goes up the system to the very top.
But as my mother used to say “You get what you pay for”, and in the drive for efficiency there’s the danger that we have made it near impossible in some cases for our health professionals to have time to be compassionate.
This should make Christians in particular , anxious, for the word, “compassion” appears again and again in the gospel story. Jesus had compassion on the crowds who flocked to him, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd, he had compassion on those who were sick, hungry, grieving, whilst the Apostle Paul describes God as being the Father of Compassion.
So how do we strengthen intelligent compassion in the NHS. In the best hospitals it’s happening, nurses and medics are recruited, not only against technical competences but against a set of values including compassion. Then in post these values are reinforced by good senior role models, and the nurse or care assistant or medic is given time to develop and demonstrate compassion. What we mustn’t do is simply to add another tick box labelled “compassion.”
Available since: Thu 21 Feb 2013
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