Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas @ The Royal: AMU, BEECH & MATERNITY

From Worcester News. 30th December 2013

From Worcester News. 30th December 2013

I had great fun putting this article together with my friends and colleagues and want to thank Tarik Al Rasheed from the Worcester News for widening its focus. Here is the full blog which I composed.

OK, let’s face facts. No one really wants to be in Hospital at all, let alone at Christmas. The season seems to speak loudly of fun, and jollity, and the TV wants us to think that everyone is having the most special and enjoyable time of their lives. We all know it’s a fiction, but we still buy into it.

But for many people Christmas will be different this year. They will be spending it in Worcestershire Royal. So is it just another day at the office for the Nurses? Well, let them tell you in their own words. This is nursing; recognising the patients’ needs at whatever time of year, and meeting them with professionalism, compassion and care.”


Alison Davis is Matron for Surgery and has been nursing for 30 odd years (although she doesn’t look it!). She reckons she must have worked more than 20 Christmas days in her career and she loves it.
“Of course, most of the patients who can go home are discharged, but for the patients who remain on the wards the staff pull out all the stops and go the extra mile. It’s wonderful to see how the staff are always putting themselves out, making the patients feel as relaxed as possible. This year, of course, we will be putting up our decorations on the Beech Unit and on Christmas Day the patients will have their Christmas Meal with a cracker and lovely Christmassy napkin, and be given a present from us. It really is lovely to see the staff so happy as well.”
Alison and the staff are well aware that Christmas can be a sad time for some. “Invariably on our wards there will be people for whom this Christmas is the first one on their own, having had the sadness of losing their spouse, but the staff do their bit and offer some and love. And we can always stretch to getting those who are well enough to go home for a few hours for the day.”
Matron’s favourite Christmas story is from a few years back, in a different place. “A young boy had been in a Road Traffic Accident. He had been unconscious for a few days and it just so happened that Carol Singers came around the ward; and whilst singing “Away in a Manger” the young boy woke up.”


Anita Cupper is Matron for Medicine. She too has long experience in the NHS and has had worked more than 15 Christmases- and despite being off this year she will come in on Christmas Day and wish all her patients on the Acute Medical Unit (one of the busiest wards at Worcester Royal with 900+ patients per month) a “Merry Christmas”. Again there will be decorations and gifts for patients on a ward which will be fully staffed. Anita, described by her colleagues as a “whirlwind”, said that the ward will be full of happiness and cheer, although is well aware that there will be some people who have no family or visitors. “It is up to us provide that family element which some patients will be lacking,” she says with passion. “After all that is what nursing is all about. If Christmas is about anything it is about believing you can make anything happen!” Senior Sister Ruth Clack overhears us talking and shares her Christmas story. “One Christmas Eve I admitted a patient who came in very poorly. The Medic thought his chances of surviving were slim and I stayed late to transfer him to the Intensive Care Unit. I was delighted to see him back with us three days later and he had three good years more of quality life.” But perhaps most touching, Ruth told me that on the day that he died, “the patient’s wife phoned me to tell me the news and how much I had meant to the family. This was a while ago but it’s funny what you remember.”


The maternity unit at Worcestershire Royal is a special place, and with all the hype of Christmas you would be forgiven for thinking that it was the centre of Christmas in the Hospital. After all we have all seen the TV programmes on Christmas Day from Maternity Wards celebrating Christmas Babies, and the ward at Worcester often has the local radio station phoning up on 25th December asking “if they have enough hay and hot water.”
“But mostly for us it is a normal working day,” says Pam. “We enjoy working at Christmas, and it is a privilege to be involved with bringing new life into the world, but our main aim is to help the women deliver their babies safely, efficiently and in as comfortable a way as possible as with every day. Once the baby is born, the family want to get them home as quickly as possible and we do our very best to facilitate that. We do, of course, recognise it as a special time of year and celebrate it. And this year the Community Champion at ASDA in Worcester has kindly donated some festive baby clothes which we will give to each family, along with a little gift for each baby.”


“There is a buzz about the hospital at this time of year, like there is everywhere else, which in some ways makes my job more challenging. So there are times of great sadness, when families need a supportive and sympathetic person to be with them for a spell; and times of great joy which are worth a celebration. The hospital is life writ large, but to be there for people in sorrow or joy is an enormous privilege. I take my hat off to all the staff working over the Christmas period. I can assure you that you will have the same level of professionalism and support as at any other time of the year and staff will continue to go the extra mile. So my thoughts and prayers are for peace this Christmastime wherever people are and whatever the challenges they are facing.”

Hope in the Face of Adversity: A Christmas Baby

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

In May I will have been at Worcestershire Royal Hospital as Chaplain for 5 years.

And so every now and then I bump into people who I have met in other circumstances- none more so that this story.

I was minding my own business chatting to a Volunteer in the Main Entrance of the Royal when I noticed a dishevelled man out of the corner of my eye. You kind of get a second sense when you think someone wants to speak with you, and so I asked him if he was OK. His name was Ben, he looked knackered, and he told me why. “My wife Alice is expecting a baby and I have been awake for 36 hours straight.” He said his wife was called Alice, and I wished him good luck and went on my way.

Later that day I was about to go home and I saw him again. This time he still looked knackered but with a dazed air about him; almost floating through the entrance of the hospital (on his way out to have a fag). “How’s it going I asked?” “O Great, she’s had, I ,mean we’ve had, a baby girl.” “Congratulations! Have a cigar!” I said (more a turn of phrase than an anti-health promotion message.”

He told me that their baby was called SOPHIA, and that his partner was called Alice. More than that “Alice would like to see you after what happened before.”

O dear, now the penny dropped. I obviously had some connection to this woman; (not her partner- he was new to me); and so I was wracking my brains.

I went down to post-natal, and when I found ALICE the memories immediately flooded back. Three and a half years ago I had taken the funeral of her son after a pregnancy loss. I remember Alice in particular; vulnerable and still and reserved but full of grief. And I remembered the service, and the blessing I gave to her little boy: “May the Lord bless you…”

And now here she was, and in her arms was a beautiful baby girl. And as Alice saw me her face crinkled into gratitude and relief. “Oh. I’m so glad you’ve come; you’ve really made this time special.”

I was speechless. I’d only just shown my face (and that’s enough to put most people off). I am aware that so often I’m involved in some of the saddest times in peoples lives, and, understandably, they don’t want that bringing back to them by memories evoked by my presence.

But not Alice.

So she passed baby Sophia to me and for a few moments I stood there rocking her and admiring this new life who had emerged into the world. She was beautiful, and fragile, and it felt like I was treading on “Holy Ground”.

And after a moment Alice asked: “Would you say a blessing for Sophia?”

And so, in the same words which were echoed three and a half years ago for her brother for whom time was so short, I prayed for Sophia:

“Sophia, may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you his peace.”

And now, one final, bold request. “Can I have a photo and share it on my Blog? No worries if not!” “Corse you can Dave. You’ve done so much for you. We’ll never forget what you’ve done for your Son. We owe you such a lot!”

So glad to be there.
So glad to have, for a short while at least, become interweaved with the story of Alice and Ben and Sophia.
So glad to have witnessed a new life start her journey in the world.

Believe me I know that not all stories have happy endings.
I know that many will, this Christmas, face grief which seems insurmountable.
But for now I pass on a story that speaks of HOPE.

And say that, for me at least, my thoughts and prayers will continue to be with this little ball of ‘WISDOM’.

AVON 4: “Patients so well cared for!” An unannounced Visit

Robin Walker on an vist to AVON 4

Robin Walker on an vist to AVON 4

I haven’t blogged for a while because my last post was so emotional that I had to take some time.

And now here we are. In case you haven’t kept up, Avon 4 is in the Aconbury block. In previous posts I have praised Wendy Bull for the way in which she leads this ward. She is fair, firm, enthusiastic and a motivator of staff. She leads by example and is as likely to be found with patients as she is anywhere else.

And it so happened that I bumped into her in the main entrance of Worcestershire Royal the other day. “Make sure on your blog that you give my staff a mention. They are wonderful and hard working even under the pressures they face. They always have time for patients and show real care and compassion.”

Now when Wendy asks (or tells) me to do something I do it (not like I’m scared of her or anything) but just becasue she is a complete star! But you might think “she would say that wouldn’t she”.

But it just so happens that I can back this up. Not by my own words but by the words of Robin Walker MP who visited the Hospital today. He spent some time shadowing me and this time, with no one but us two, we could go where we liked. I suggested that we went to AVON 4– partly because it is in the older part of the hospital and can be forgotten.

We were welcomed by Sister Rachael who, without stage managing or hiding anything, introduced us to some patients. They were pleased to see Robin and, to a patient, all of them said how well cared for they were and how kind the staff were.

Not a set up- they could have said anything.

And later in the day Robin Walker MP Tweeted this, with a picture of him and Rachael.

“Tks to @revdavesouthall for taking me round and being photographer! Great to meet patients so well cared for “

Now it’s tempting to think that the Nurses had chance to scurry round and do things properly. But they had only 5 minutes notice that we were coming. And what Robin saw, I am proud to say, was a normal ward on a normal day.

It strikes me that this is important. We all know the travesty of the OFSTED reports where schools are given so much notice and put huge preparations into making everything just right. Well that shows what can happen when organisations are on their best behaviour.

Chatting to my Chaplain Colleague Rev Guy Hewlett afterwards, he saw the power in this. As an ex-Custody Suite Seargant for the Police he told me of the Lay Visitors who could visit at any time, day or night, with no notice at all. And that is the spirit in which I took the MP around.

After all, we have nothing to hide. And everything to show. And the openness and transparency of Robin’s visit proved this. Hard working and caring staff doing the work they do day in day out. Outstanding.

And I can tell you this. I would be proud and happy to take Robin or any other visitor to any of our wards at WRH to see the tremendous work that goes on. I have confidence in this place, in my colleagues and their care.

Who knows, perhaps we should think of a team of Lay Visitors who could come in whenever they liked to our Hospitals. Openness and Transparency are our watchwords in the NHS at the moment. Anyone can perform to a test or pre-planned visit. But it won’t tell you as much. And in fact we do have such a team- the relatives of family members who always see what is going on.

So well done AVON 4, Sister Wendy Bull and Rachael on the Team on duty this morning. And thank you Robin Walker for helping me make the point and keeping it real.


Lisa, Russell and Baby Francesco Enrico Ventura

Lisa, Russell and Baby Francesco Enrico Ventura

In pride of place in my office is thisphoto; the most special of many photos. It pictures proud parents holding a beautiful baby boy. It has “THANK YOU” inscribed on it, and on the back there is a beautiful heartfelt hand-written message. This baby is beautiful… but he is silent and still.


It started with a letter to the Worcester News from Mom praising the Hospital Staff and explaining all the hopes and dreams and fears of being an expectant parent. Little did the parents, Lisa and Russell Ventura know then what a journey would face them and their little one FRANKIE.

And so with hope and courage and resilience they dealt with the news that Little FRANKIE had a cleft lip and palate, and with energy Lisa appeared as a Guest Blogger on my site ( telling of her experiences so far and determined to use this for good and to raise awareness of the Cleft Lip and Palate Association. We marvelled at the 4-D scan which brought FRANKIE to life before our eyes in FRANKIE’S VIDEO (!my-videos/ctqb) and the way in which Mom and Dad dealt with each blow-“ we get knocked down then get up again!”

But the journey had more to dish out, more than we could ever know at the time. And by now many of our lives were intertwined with this journey. We, too, had become part of it, hoping and waiting with expectation to see this beautiful little boy.

So after the all clear of a final scan, and a breath of relief, DEVASTATING NEWS. A blood test had detected something. – a rare chromosomal anomaly which brought terrible, tragic, wicked news. Frankie would not be able to survive outside of his Mom’s tummy.

By this time I now counted Lisa and Russell as friends, along with many others. I had met Nanny and Grandad, shed tears, and talked about the coming days.

Together we made plans that no parents should have to make, of how to say goodbye to their child.

And then, Mom could no longer feel Frankie moving; and Francesco Enrico Ventura was born sleeping at 4.43am on Friday 29th November 2013 weighing 4lbs 10oz.

I have so much more to write. Of his baptism and blessing which I had the privilege of being invited to take on the ward; of the kindness and concern of the Delivery Midwives under the leadership of Matron Rachel Carter; of holding this beautiful boy in my arms and wishing for him to wake, to make a movement, to cry. Of the funeral some days later- dignified, celebratory, beautiful.

I have so much more to write but can’t bear to at the moment.

And only God knows the HELL that Russell and Lisa went through.

And yet, through it all, they held on; and could even see glimmers of hope. They are indeed remarkable people; no wonder Frankie was such a remarkable boy.
Their bravery has enabled them to create FRANKIE’S WEBSITE ( in which he tells his story. And their aim is to have a LEGACY FOR FRANKIE ( to show “how one special unborn boy changed the world even after his death…” and to raise awareness of still birth and cleft lip and palate.

So I count it an honour to post this as my tribute to FRANKIE.
A privilege to count Lisa and Russell amongst my friends.

And I share their story with a hope that we might spare a few moments of silence and prayer for them all.

@WeNurses – Spiritual Care: My take


Hmmmm…the world is full of experts.
But sometimes this masks the truth that the simple things often work.
And none more so than in SPIRITUAL CARE.

No don’t get me wrong. I like experts. I have a PhD, spend three years studying the minutiae of a particular subject…but what really counts. I have been a minister of religion for more years than I care to remember; and was a Psychiatric Nurse (or whatever they are called now) when we just sat around and drank coffee and smoked!

So here is my take on spiritual care.

Now I could direct you to learned articles on spiritual care in the academic press – (happy if you like) – but for me the way to tell it is to tell stories. So in the last few weeks I have engaged in spiritual care in the following ways:

I have held the hand, in silence, of a dying lady as she slipped from this life
I have spent time listening to the story of a couple who have lost their baby
I mopped the forehead (extended duties) of a patient who wanted to see me
I spent time listening to a staff member whos father had died
I was harangued by an angry relative
I spent time with a lady whose face lit up when she told me of her grandchildren
I heard the story of someone who was sad because they had lost their cat.

Now, the chances are that some of these are nothing to do with spiritual care. I fail a lot. But if spiritual care is to do with peoples spirits and motivations; and if it is anything to do with sharing in the humanity of others, then maybe it is.

And that’s the point. Sometimes we label things to shut people out. To say it is not your job, you couldn’t possibly understand; you’re not the expert.

So here’s my hunch. Nurses are spiritual care givers. The meet the needs of the persons spirits as much as their body. They may not have the language or conceptual matrix for it but doing it is what counts.

So for the tweet chat let’s have these questions as starters.

What spiritual care do you think you have given in the last few days?
Are nurses meant to be spiritual care givers?
What is spiritual care?
Are you a spiritual being?
What makes people tick?
How do you give spiritual care at the end of life?
What is important to you in regard to spiritual care?
What’s more important? Religion or my dog?

I am really looking forward to the Chat on Spirituality.
I hope to learn loads.
So thanks @wenurses for the opportunity