Category Archives: Chaplain

Deaf Experience in Hospital: A Patient’s View


On Thursday, like many of us, I got soaked to the skin. I had travelled across to the Alexandra Hospital on the motorbike as the rain lashed down, But it was so worth it. Why? Because I was supporting my Deaf friend William as he spoke about patient experience to our Trust Board. The Board, comprised of the Hospital leaders; chief exec; chief nurse; etc listened intently as far as I could see, as William explained certain cases where we could have done better for our Deaf patients. He was accompanied by Angie, any interpreter who used her skills, to voice for us what Willliam was saying and sign to him what the Board were saying. And it was a brilliantly clear presentation. William told us of the barriers to Deaf access to hospitals; from the technical language used in appointment letters to accessing help in an emergency situation. He said how some Deaf people would go to Deaf Direct to have the letters translated for them or to make telephone calls on their behalf. He told us of the isolation a Deaf person can face as an inpatient on the wards when none of the staff can sign. He mentioned new technology that can provide an interpreter instantly via a laptop or tablet. But most importantly he told us about Deaf Culture; which needs to be understood if we are to meet the patient’s needs. It is not just a case of being able to sign some words; but, as always, to inhabit the world of the other person and make them at home on their own terms. I also had the privilege of addressing the board, mentioning the 150 staff we have already trained in basic BSL, but also recognizing that, whilst a good start, there is way more that we can do. At the end, William, with his hearing dog Archie (how could I forget him until now) received a massive round of applause – expressed by the waving of our hands in the air. I was hugely encouraged. You will know that I am making it my aim to make Worcestershire Acute Trust the most Deaf Aware and Deaf Friendly Trust in the UK. And in the summing up by the Chairman, Sir David had captured the essence of the presentation and suggested some meaningful actions. That’s what happens when we listen to people and hear how we can do better meet their needs.


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.”

David Savaged by a Collie: Halloween Weekend Horror!

Teeth bared and ready to bite!

Teeth bared and ready to bite!

I left the house at 7:40am on Sunday morning. No time to be up, especially on my 23rd Wedding Anniversary. The streets were quiet, it was a bright, crisp autumnal morning and I was heading to BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester for a radio interview about the Chaplain’s Blog. A chance to plug the blog and celebrate the fact that it has had over 100,000 views.

I arrived at the car park and met Radio Presenter and all round good egg Malcolm “Boing Boing” Boyden who took me into the building. All was going well- or so I thought. What could go wrong?

I was on the Sunday Show with Michael Collie and the interview started OK, just catching up on the news of the blog and saying how well the blog was doing.

But then the Collie turned…

“You are being a free PR machine for the Hospital. Shouldn’t you as a Chaplain be standing in the middle of this not just plugging one side of the story?”

It is, of course, a good point. And we batted ideas about for another couple of minutes. A bit like a boxing match with some body blows to me. I came back with a left hook and a jab. And it was quite exhilarating!

I left the studio and after the next song, whilst listening in the car, Michael read out two or three entries from my blog and said “Do you think I was too hard on him?”

You can listen to the whole interview here: just slide the tab to 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Now I am being unfair to Michael. He is a nice man, a great radio presenter, and a does a great show. And the point of this post is not to criticise him or the media. Far from it!

The point is to show up the fact that:


Even those on my blog!

If I had made the title of this post “David on Michael Collie Radio Show” then you might not have read this far! We seem to be attracted to some types of headlines and not to others.

I think there is a better way. I really do believe in the power of Good News. I think that every glimmer of light given off by it can change the world. I think there is a need for a culture of good news in the NHS, and in the country.

So if you feel tricked, or even sad, that this wasn’t a story of me being mauled by a ferocious hound, then there might be a lesson to learn.

And if you were concerned that I have been hurt…well thank you.

Let’s change the world one small act of love, one good deed, or one piece of good news at a time – to paraphrase Mother Theresa.

Oh and finally, THANK YOU MICHAEL COLLIE AND PRODUCER LIZZIE LANE, for continuing to plug the blog. I always appreciate my time with you!

TOMMY’S BUBBLES: So Perfect…So Fragile. Reflections on a neonatal death

So fragile

So pefect…so fragile

Tommy was a beautiful baby; I’ve seen the photos! But after a 10 day fight he passed away in the arms of his lovely Mom Amy along with Dad Chris in the parents room of a West Midlands Hospital.

I’d seen them before; I buried their other son Jayden who died in the womb at 20-something weeks gestation a year ago.

And when Amy and Chris contacted me to tell me that Tommy had died it broke my heart. That it should happen at anyone is tragic; that it should happen to this couple for the second time in one year is without words. And when they asked me to take their son’s funeral, well…

And on the day of the funeral family and friends turned up to pay their respects. Each person was given a pot of bubbles and, at the request of Mom and Dad, I was asked to invite those present to blow their bubbles- which they did – all except me! Why? Because, whilst I managed to get the top off the bubbles, I couldn’t get the wand out. And the more I tried, the slippier my fingers became and the more impossible the task. I told the people at the funeral about this, and they laughed! They knw what I’m like.

The service proceeded, and it was at the point in the service when we were all listening to a piece of music as a reflection, that I succeeded…the bubbles were open. And from behind the lectern, where I was sitting listening with others, I blew bubbles for Tommy. Important, because in his short life amongst us Tommy blew lots of bubbles, and his parents wanted to mark that aspect of his time with us.

They’d told me so much more than this of course. Of his beautiful black hair; his beautiful eyes; the way in which, whilst he would play up for the midwives, he would open his eyes when Mom spoke to him, and curl his little hand around Dad’s finger. Of how he was a fighter, and fought for 10 days (‘stubborn like his mom’) and when he passed away ‘he seemed to wave goodbye with his hand.’ Of how they still sleep with his blanket which holds the smell of him.

And still I blew my bubbles, in the crematorium chapel, and in my mind a picture formed. The picture of something so perfect, and yet so fragile. And one of the bubbles landed on the floor, it stayed for just a little while longer than the others; and just as I thought it might stay forever, it was gone.

At the graveside, after the service in the Chapel, we laid him to rest with his brother Jayden whose funeral I remembered as if it were yesterday. “One on top of another,” said Mum, “like the bunk beds we would have had for them.”

That was a while ago now. I still think about Amy and Chris, of Tommy and Jayden and of all the family. I have met some incredible people in my life; some inspirational people in my work as Chaplain; and Amy and Chris are up there at the top. I wish them good fortune, happiness and peace.

And the other day I saw some bubbles…

…just some kids playing and havig fun…… but guess who I thought of?


Strange things happen when spaghetti is involved!

Strange things happen when spaghetti is involved!

If you have never been to church you might not know about the experience called the children’s talk. It is part of the service where someone, usually a teacher, gets up and tries to engage the kids in some aspect of life.

At one service I was taking, the teacher got all the children out to the front, and in her bag she had some props. The aim was to say that if you dream about certain things they mean something. So dreaming about sheep means you are wondering about your future, etc. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

The children all obediently came out and took items from the bag. A cuddly sheep; a pig; a packet of spaghetti and the like. I have to be honest and say that the talk went on a bit. And the kids were standing there fiddling with their items.

One young lad had the spaghetti, and after about 10 seconds started waving it around. And then playing sword fighting with it- and hitting the sheep. Having had my own kids sit through children’s talks, given by me, nothing is a surprise. Now I won’t say it was an all-out spaghetti fight, but it was turning that way when the talk mercifully came to an end.

What had the kids learnt? That dreams can mean things, AND THAT A PACKET OF SPAGHETTI MAKES A DAMN GOOD WEAPON.

All this is by way of introducing some good news. I happened to be sitting next to the parents of the spaghetti boy, and we were highly amused by his antics. And it so happened that the mother has a different story to tell.
Lyn writes:

“Hi David

We met briefly at Sansome Walk Baptist Church a few weeks ago when you were
preaching…I sat behind you with my husband and son, Noah. Noah was the one
fighting with the pasta in the children’s talk!

Anyway, we had the unfortunate situation recently of my dad being at Worcester
Royal…a friend told me about your blog and I saw the info on the door when I was
in Costa’s at the hospital…so please you could include this…

‘ I would really like to praise and thank Worcester Royal for their fantastic
care after my dad, Neil, was rushed into hospital on 23rd July with chest pains,
he had had a heart attack. The care from the first response, paramedics, to the
sister and cardiologist on A and E, to staff on ITU, and his care on Coronary
Care was great. Staff were great and talked my mum and myself through the
process and what was happening. A special thanks to a nurse/ sister called Lally
on Coronary Care. We think that the care was quicker and better than what it
would have been if my Dad was at his home in rural Cambridgeshire. Thank you.’
Lyn Green

Thanks David.


Retail Lessons from AGRO’S: How not to do customer service

I had some disappointing service the other day in a shop – let’s call it Agro’s. I had bought an item that said it would fit my lovely motorbike only to find it was too small. “Could I exchange it for a bigger one?” I asked the Manager. “No,” she explained with a look of derision and contempt, “It’s been opened and used.” When I explained that I had to open the package to see if it fitted, she said: “That was your choice!” When I said I might complain to Head Office, she said, “You can, but they will ask me and I will say it was opened!” It was embarrassing and humiliating, especially with some younger members of the staff smirking in the background. In the end we agreed to disagree, not before I determined never, ever, ever, to shop there again!
Interesting, isn’t it, that one bad experience, colours our view of the whole organisation and leaves a bad taste in our mouths. And so it is with our Hospitals.
Walking around the Royal I see huge examples of courtesy and kindness. People going out of their way to help others; smiling, and going the extra mile in times of huge need. But doubtless, in an organisation this large, some of us are bound to have felt we have been treated shabbily, or even, God forbid, felt humiliated or belittled.
So for those employed by the Hospitals, in whatever capacity,t remember: Careless words harm the reputation of us all. We must challenge it (if we see it) and guard our own words. And for those who have felt a little like me that shop, a bit of lea way is needed. Not everyone is on top form all of the time; and one bad experience shouldn’t devalue all of the good work by hard working professional staff.
So, I will take the high ground and I will shop at Agro’s again – probably!

Farewell Fish: Rev’d Andrew Fisher moves on….

Spooky picture of Andrew!

Spooky picture of Andrew!

Not so spooky picture of Fish

Not so spooky picture of Fish

This is a sad month for me. My colleague and friend Rev’d Andrew Fisher will be leaving the Trust at the end of August. Andrew has been the Chaplain at the Alexandra Hospital and they love him there. And no wonder- his devotion to service, kindness and compassion to patients and staff alike, and his bad jokes have won him lost of admirers.

Tomorrow is Andrew’s leaving do. There will be his final communion service at 10:30am in the Multi Faith Prayer Room at the Alex (just by the main entrance) and then a leaving party afterwards starting at 11:30pm.

Do try and come along to one or both of these, where we will present Andrew with a leaving gift, and no doubt he will have a few words and a bad joke to share with us!

There are also two other things you might like to do.

1) If you want to contribute to his leaving present please give your donations to Switchboard at the Alex. Ruth has gone out of her way to scoot round the wards but she may have missed you. They would be delighted to recieve your gift.

2) If you would like to comment publicly about Andrew’s ministry at the hospital then please use the comment box below, so that everyone can see what a valuable job he has done. I know that many of you have already sent him emails but do a dd a comment below.Andrew goes with our good wishes. It’s a personal sadness to me. He has been a fantastic colleague, a good friend, and I shall miss him.