On the 8th of August, 2015, the Chairman and Chaplains of University Hospitals of Leicester held a special celebration of “Caring at its Best” at Leicester Cathedral. I had the privilege of speaking at the event and in response to a number of requests, offer this as a sharing …
A friend sent me a poem last week which I would like to share with you. It is called Adlestrop and it was published by Edward Thomas in 1917. He was on the Oxford to Worcester express and the train made an unscheduled stop at Adlestrop railway station. He did not get off the train, and just describes the moment.
Yes. I remember Adlestrop
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat, the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire
I love the line – No one left and no one came.
I completed medical school in 1992 and I first joined University Hospitals of Leicester as a consultant in Accident and Emergency Medicine in 2003. So I’ve been around a while. I’ve been with the ED and UHL through some of its toughest days and through some of its best. Performance against targets among the lowest in the country, to times when we were the best performing ED in the Midlands and in the top 10 across the UK. And I’ve experienced the ED and UHL start the cycle all over again.
Almost as if – No one left and no one came.
I have reflected deeply on why we have made progress as an organisation so many times, and yet been unable to sustain those improvements. I would like to share what I hope are my three key insights.
The first insight is – it’s not about evidence. We have some of the best most knowledgeable medical experts in the country, if not the world, in UHL.
The second insight is – it’s not just about management. Over our history, we have had some excellent managers, and have made great progress, only to fall back again.
I have shared this journey, of evidence and management with UHL, and indeed been an integral part of it in my time. I may not know all the medical evidence and management there is in the world, but I now know enough to see where this road goes.
Which leads me to my final insight. Compassion.
If evidence and research are like the windscreen of a car, and help us see clearly; if management is like a steering wheel providing direction; then the engine of the car, the energy and power that actually moves anything is compassion.
I have been studying this for a while and every religion I have looked into so far has compassion as a central tenant.
Awareness of another person’s suffering. And acting to relieve that suffering, without discrimination.
Applied religion. Not debates about philosophical principles, or arguments over historical fact or fiction. Instead, religion, faith expressed in action. Compassion, the heart and soul powering our journey forward, guided by evidence, facilitated by management, yet still always the dominant driving force.
I would like to end with a personal reflection. About a rainbow.
Science tells us there isn’t anything at the end of a rainbow, no pot of gold or leprechaun. Management would tell us trying to walk to the end of a rainbow would not be efficient nor effective. Yet I am sure, in this very room, there are people whose instincts will make them wonder – is that really true ? And if we are lucky, there may even be among us a few who have made the journey to the end of a rainbow and know – what the mind closes, the heart can open.
No one left and no one came.