Personal Journal

NHS Compassion


I had a fascinating discussion with Jake and Geeta, two members of our educational team. Jake, who is our IT guru, was telling me how he felt the doctors and nurses frustration with the different IT systems used across the ED shopfloor. He really wished he could somehow change the software so the clinical staff “would not suffer as much”.

Recognising another person’s suffering combined with the heartfelt desire to relieve that suffering – isn’t that the very definition of compassion ?

Like many, I had not always considered hospital compassion beyond the patient- clinician interface.  Listening to Jake, I now recognise this spirit within so many people across the NHS – in very different forms and roles, clinical and ‘back office’.

How can we nurture this deep compassion ?

Well, according to Geeta, -by “putting aside our egos”.

And from Jake – sometimes “just being”.

Thank you both for such a rich sharing.

Personal Journal

A Compassionate Christmas 

In my journey to better understand what compassion means, I spent some time in a Buddhist monastery. One of the senior monks there offered this message about a green Santa which I would like to share with you …

This season, we invite you to imagine a Santa Claus dressed in green. He bears an empty sack, with no material gifts, but only a gift of the heart, a gift of love. This Santa visits each home, not coming secretly down the chimney, but knocking overtly at the front door. He has nothing in his bag. He greets the family and embraces each child in his arms with a long hug, no matter what color their skin, or whether they live in broken-down huts or luxurious homes. He tells them that this Christmas, he is bringing them the gift of love and compassion, and not gifts wrapped in boxes, because it is this energy of love and compassion that the world is most in need of now.”

May each of us find this love and compassion – in and around us –  as we travel the road together  …

Personal Journal

Relating Meaningfully

This is from an email recently shared with my Emergency Department:

here are a couple of things I’ve worked out so far…

One – for all our eccentricities, the people I work with are exceptional. Exceptional in how much they care deep inside, and exceptional in how strong they are day in day out on the outside. An amazing team I would like to relate to in a more meaningful way over time. 

And two – the conviction I had before all this – of compassion being our way forward – now shines brighter than ever. A journey we will walk together, one step at a time.

What does it mean – to relate to in a more meaningful way ? I am finding out, and for this week it’s been having the courage to accept and to give a hug to those friends at work who care about me and haven’t seen me for a while.

Dear Friends – thank you.IMG_5180
Public Sharing

Celebrating Compassion

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 …


Dear Friends,

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. IMG_6739

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.

Thank you.IMG_6471