Category Archives: Thinking Allowed

“Let’s kick a psycho”: A Free Press, Public Opinion and Other Musings


Last week I had the temerity to speak out against some large supermarkets and others for selling “psycho patient” costumes for Halloween, which was published in the Worcester News and Berrows Journal and also on line at:

I myself, like 1 in 4 of us, have had mental health challenges and I know something of the stigma attached to mental illness personally and in my previous career as a Psychiatric Nurse. I have been with patients and friends when they have been mocked in the street, and seen how this contributed to their illnesses. So when I said that the selling of these costumes was a retrograde step, I thought I was just stating the obvious; an issue with which any right-minded person would agree.

But if the comments to the online version of the article are anything to go by, I was completely wrong (all bar one). According to nameless commentators I was, one of the “professionally offended” portraying a “bull**** politically correct world” and trying to turn Britain into “the Germans,” apparently meaning ‘with no sense of humour.’ No one said “let’s kick a psycho!” but we weren’t far off. I have to say I was a little taken aback, and my friends told me that the trick is not to read the comments; but that is to let the bigoted win.

Now don’t get me wrong- I am in favour of free speech and freedom of the press; they are pillars of democracy. But I am also in favour of supporting the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the marginalised in society; that is a tenet of Christianity and a caring community. But what concerned me more was that the comments did not seem to represent the full ranges of views but only one limited viewpoint. And the people who met me and had read the article said it was helpful.

And it got me reading and thinking.

And so I read the comments for other articles; and it seemed that the same group of people comment negatively on everything. This is, of course, their right; but it is not necessarily helpful.

And so I thought: “Where are all the comments from people who agree with me?” Do they exist- or am I the only one thinking that way. Why do others, myself included, not take on others views and present the positive. And how would it feel if I had a mental health issue and read these views.

Tell you what, why don’t we flood the negative comments with the positive? With the decent, compassionate voices. With the views that let those who have a mental illness know that they have our support and care not our criticism and vitriole.

Now I don’t want to overstate the case, but I was reminded of Edward Burkes aphorism: “In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.” Burke was talking about one of the greatest evils this world has ever seen, the Nazi Holocaust; where Jews, and gypsies and the mentally ill were ‘eliminated’. But I still think that whenever humanity is minimized, the oppressed persecuted and the ill pilloried, we have to speak out or be less than human ourselves.

And that’s what I did. And am proud to have done it. Perhaps you might visit the online article and add a comment which would reclaim the balance. Who knows, one small word might make the world a better place.

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!

Sunday Blog: Passionate about the NHS. Passionate about Patient Care

I’ve been really lucky in my jobs. I’ve never had a job I hated; and barring the bad days, never had a job I didn’t love. As an RMN, CPN, Drug Cousellor, Baptist Minister and Chaplain.

And I am not on my own.

I have entered the world of Twitter (@revdavesouthall) and am following a number of people in Worcestershire hospitals who say they are passionate about their job.


Martina Morris @MartinaMorris76
I am the Service Lead – Safe Care at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. Really passionate about patient safety, high standards and quality patient care.

And many many others.

And it’s not just words. Come to Worcester Royal at 3pm when the early shift is ending, and you won’t find many nurses leaving then. Come at 3:30 or 4pm and they will leave.

You see this is not just a clock on/clock off job. It is about passion for the patients and service.

And read the comments below. Scroll down and see, time after time, thank yous for people going the extra mile.

Of course, this is not everyone. But it is a significant majority. People who really care.
Really want the best for patients.
And know that what they do makes a difference

They deserve our thanks.

“HOSPITAL DOES ITS JOB” Should be Headline News Every Day

I was taxed by two things this week.

The first was the overstatement from Local Councillor Maddy Bunker who tweeted: “Mistakes so often by Acute Trust” and went on to tell a tragic tale.

The second was from Radio Broadcaster Michael Collie when he interviewed me on Radio HandW saying “But is “hospital does it’s job” news, that’s what it is supposed to do.”

Now no one is saying there aren’t sad stories, sometimes caused by human error Ms. Bunker. The NHS, unlike local politics, deals with matters of life and death every day.Sometimes mistakes happen- always a tragedy whatever the situation and whoever is to blame.

And YES, Mr Collie, “Hospital does it’s job” is headline news. Look at the blog and do the math.

It is for my friend who had a detached retina, and whose sight was saved by quick treatment.
It is for Chris, whose chemo treatment worked.
It is for Beryl’s family who will always remember her passing as a time that mattered to the nurses and full of compassion.
It is for Mrs Smith who, time after time, has has excellent treatment.
It is for the couple who lost thier baby and were surrounded by kindness.

It is for those thousands who will be treated today and tomorrow and beyond.
And I dare say it will be for you Mr. Collie and Ms. Bunker should you ever need our services.

That’s why people come to us and not to the radio studio or the local council offices when they are ill.

I am not asking for a whitewash. For a cloud cuckoo land where we dream that everything is right.

Just for some balance, where in a different world, where good news sold, “Hospital does amazing things” would be headline news every day.

There’s an appetite for good news stories…

This blog has only been going 5 days and I am already amazed at the good news you have sent about the hospitals in Worcestershire. From Sorrel Suite and Acute Stroke, to the Alex Rehab and Chaplaincy. The blog has had hundreds of views- and people have commented and sent me messages.

I honestly believe that people want to hear your good news experiences of the hospital.

So if you can spare a minute or two CONTACT ME and share your good news. I guarantee it will do everyone good.

Maybe we might even persuade the local printed press that good news sells papers too!(OK, I’ll get real again).

So if you are a patient who wants to tell your story, or a member of staff with a comment, or a community member with a point of view -then share your news.

People are waiting to hear from you!

We all know that bad news sells papers… but its not really a free press is it ?

Think of the last headlines you have seen for Wocestershire Hospitals.

To go by those you would think that our hospitals were on the verge of collapse; patients are being left in thier own excrement; nurses are just sitting at the desk on their computers, etc, etc, etc.

But nothing could be further from the truth!

So why is our experience of our local hospitals so different to that portrayed in the local papers?

Now I would defend to the death a free press (I am a lefty liberal after all) but it’s not really free, is it, if it is driven by market forces.
Of course the media have a duty to shine a spotlight on a world in which cover ups galore… but what about the good news. It get’s lost.

And so our job is to be the part the free press which is not free. To redress the balance. To put the good news on the front page. And even if only one or two read it, it’s here for all to see, with no market forces acting upon it.

Oh and it relies on you and I. The voices which really matter. The community who have an investment in our local hospitals.

So let’s redress the balance. End of sermon!