Monthly Archives: December 2015


Big Up the NHS

Last week David Southall approached me to ask if I would publish this piece as a guest blog on “Big Up the NHS”. I have just started a new job as a medical consultant in his trust so I am getting to know about the organisation.  I already know it is a good hospital staffed by good people. Also I totally agree with what he is saying – so there was no hesitation. Here it is.

Well the cat seems to be alive-and-dead simultaneously in the sealed box. At least that was the conclusion of the thought experiment by Erwin Schrödinger of his cat placed in a box with a bottle of poison and various other paraphernalia

It got me thinking because my hospital has recently enjoyed (or should that be endured) a CQC visit. The Hospitals in our Trust have been rated as inadequate and placed into special measures. And…

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Singing, Dementia & Voices 4 Health

Just in case you found today’s Blog post too contentious, here’s another to get your teeth into. Hope it gets as much interest, if not more so, than the previous one. God knows it deserves too!

V4H Christmas

The Voices 4 Health NHS Choir singing at a Nursing Home

So on Thursday evening 20 of us for the NHS Voices 4 Health Choir put on our Santa hats and Christmas Jumpers and headed to a local nursing home. While setting up I had the chance to talk to some of the residents. Some were frail elderly; some others had levels of confusion or dementia asking “Where am I?” or “When can I go home” or talking about relatives and loved ones from the past.
We started with a carol and then sang one of our pieces: The Little Road to Bethlehem. After that I asked them for an X-Factor style vote. Did they want to sing Angels from the Realms of Glory or Ding Dong Merrily on High. The second one got the loudest cheer and so that is what we sang. And when we got to the chorus “Glor…….or…or.or…or…or…ia Hosanna In Excelsis”, I looked up and many of the residents were joining in with beaming faces. One lady in the front was obviously enjoying herself so much. Now what is remarkable, is that many of those who were joining in were the very ones who, in my initial chats, wouldn’t have been able to say where they lived or where they were now. But to sing along with a carol was not problem; and, in fact, more than that, they gained some happiness from it.
Music has the power to bring joy and healing. It has the ability to bring back to mind events long since lost in the mists of time. It has the facility to transport people to happier places. I know this because this is what it does for me.
So, on the surface we were just one of many choirs visiting nursing homes this Christmas, but deep down – who knows – we might have been the instruments which gave these lovely people some respite from their condition.
I believe that music can reduce physical pain; that it can salve wounded emotions; and that it can heal deep wounds in the soul. So I hope we can return there soon to bring some more healing.

Please let me know if this is your experience too. You can comment on this blog.

Note: Unlike other blogs and sites I have to APPROVE comments before they are posted so that they do not cause untold concern or hurt. Only comments which are in line with the ethos of the Blog will be approved. Abusive and personal comments will be assigned to where they should be- “The TRASH” – or the rubbish bin in English 🙂



report card

This is my weekly column from Worcester News on our Recent CQC report.

At Secondary School I was a swot – no apologies , that’s just who I am (a bit like Hermione Granger out of the Harry Potter films!). So I always looked forward to my end of year report- which would be a sea of green ‘A’s. Now let me explain: we were rated on attainment of A-E with A as EXCELLENT and E as POOR. But the grades were also coloured with green, blue and red: GREEN = maximum effort; RED= no effort at all. So one could get a green D- which meant you weren’t very good but you tried hard.
So in the Summer of 1974 I opened the envelope and saw GREEN ‘A’s’ with one exception. A RED ‘A’ for Biology. It was unbelievable. I had never had a red grade. And it didn’t make sense. What did it mean? That I didn’t try hard in biology but was brilliant at it anyway. Who knows?
And I tell you this little story because the Acute Hospitals in Worcestershire received a overall rating of inadequate by the Care Quality Commission. Fair enough if there are improvements we need to make to give even better care. But the thing that made no sense to me was the rating for Maternity Services. In Safety they got a RED INADEQUATE whilst in CARE they got not just a GREEN good but an “OUTSTANDING” – the only department in the hospital to get an outstanding anywhere.
This makes as much sense as my RED ‘A’ in Biology. Surely if the safety is compromised then the care is unsafe and vice versa. I know the Trust can’t criticise the CQC. But I can in my personal capacity as a Worcester News columnist. Something is wrong!
So if you are worried about maternity or any other service at our Hospitals, then read the whole report on the CQC website. I can guarantee you, like others, will think the classification of inadequate is harsh. So we’ll just keep doing our best, as I did in Biology – when in 1975 I was back to getting a green A.


“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love” or “Why he isn’t still in the Mortuary!”


The family were grief stricken when I saw them at their home.

The man’s death had come suddenly and, even though he was a good old age, it was a shock to them. In amidst the tears they told me about him; his life, achievements, and family – and then more tears flowed. “I don’t know how we’ll get through the day” they said. “And we don’t want a pauper’s funeral!

You may or may not be aware of how expensive a funeral can be. It is estimated that the average cost of laying someone to rest is £3500 –which is a huge whack of money for anyone; and an inconceivably large amount for this grieving family. And that was why I was there. Thankfully, after going from funeral director to funeral director – and being given quotes which they could never afford – they alighted on Bedwardine Funeral Services in St. Johns. As a smaller, independent firm they were able to cut costs to a bare minimum and help this family out. So when my friend from the firm contacted me to see if I would do the funeral for free, rather than the huge £180 which vicars charge, I was only too delighted to do so.

The funeral went well (if you know what I mean). The family were pleased that we had given him a good send-off; and I was happy that I had done a little bit to make a difference to this family. But the biggest credit goes to the Funeral Directors, who bust a gut (and no doubt their profit margins) to serve this family.

I don’t know what would have happened if they hadn’t stepped in; probably this much loved man would still be in the mortuary waiting for arrangements to be made. So here is to community; to local businesses that want to serve ; and to a spirit of generosity and compassion which this family received and this man deserved.
After all, as Mother Teresa reminds us: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Kind Words Make a Difference

kind words“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me!” What utter rubbish. We all know the power of words to hurt- from the taunts about our size or facial features to hateful racist chants. Words matter. And in my job, I have the chance every day to dispense some kind words. In fact, I do it, like most people, without noticing it…until someone mentions it.

And so the other day I was on Delivery Suite where I saw a midwife who I think is amazing both in attitude and professionalism. And I told her, in front of the Midwife-In-Charge how fantastic I thought she was. So I was so please to get a Tweet in the evening from the person I had complimented which said: All it takes are a few kind words. Thank you @revdavesouthall You made my day so much better!” And guess what, that made me feel better too.

And a few days after spending some time with a family whose loved one was dying I received a lovely thank you card. Dear David, your prayers, support and compassion for our Dad deserve a ‘Thank You’. We felt that the comfort and peace you gave us will have been felt by him, as us, in a tangible way. Also your kind words were appreciated.”

Kindness is a much under-estimated virtue. It can change people’s emotions. And any of us who deal with people, in whatever sphere of work, would do well to reflect on this. Kindness isn’t trendy or showy or loud. But kindness can have an impact far beyond its short utterance. Words matter because, as the song says: “Words are all we have.” And kind words matter a lot.

Of course we shouldn’t just speak kind words to get some praise back. But we should say them because they are true – and then let them work their way and do their good in the mystery of the cosmos. As Mother Teresa reminds us: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”