3rd December 2015

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Health Chat

14th January King's Fund 5.30pm

Professor Sir Cyril Chantler

What experiences, what tales he has to tell!

Tickets here.

Brief encounter
News and Comment from Roy Lilley
'You are Roy Lilley'.
'I might be... are you from the National Lottery, telling me I've won?'
No, she said, I'm a nurse and you came and gave a talk at our Trust, three years ago...
Blimey, what did I say!
You made us laugh. You said that district nurses were the most expensive cardigans in the world.
Ouch, doncha love it when stuff comes back to bite you!
You also said the NHS was going to run out of money.
Well, I got something right...
We were on a train, another late 'Sorry-4-The-Inconvenience-Virgin' train.
Blond; a figure that Botticelli would have enjoyed painting. Smart in her Bretton stripe top and navy skirt. Kindly, a listener, with the fading remnants of a tan from a long forgotten summer holiday.
Even without a cardigan she was a district nurse! Deep, dark brown eyes that had seen the good and bad in a thousand patients and their carers, relatives and friends. A face you could confide in.  Highs and lows, secrets and lies.
Over a packet of crisps and a tiny screw-top bottle of something that cannot have ever come from a leafy vineyard with a warm southerly breeze and tender viniculture... we reminisced.
Our paths had crossed. Conferences, mutual friends... the golden thread that runs through the NHS. Collegiate, like the red stripe that runs through the Colgate.
She was off to London to use up some leave; visiting her daughter, her husband and their new baby. She was a granny! Whoever thinks they are going to be grandparents. Whoever thought we'd live long enough to reminisce.
Using up leave?
Yes, I'm retiring at Christmas.
I've had enough...
And, with that, the gates opened and out it all came. She said it all. Everything that, I'd guess, had wanted to be said for weeks, months.  Maybe years.
The reorganisations, the stupid line-managers, the unremitting demand, the whole shebang, revalidation, the paperwork...
All I ever wanted to do was to be a nurse. My mum was a nurse, my cousin was a nurse, my granny was a nurse. We were a family of nurses. I'd hoped daughter Claire would be a nurse but she didn't fancy it and I'm pleased she didn't.  She works in graphic design.
We shared the final drops into the plastic glasses. She leaned forward and crossed her arms on the table; 'It's not what it was, they've sucked the life out of it. I don't mind being busy but there's no time to do anything properly. They've fiddled with the pensions and I'm going whilst I've still got one.'
She leaned back in the seat, pushed her hands flat on the table, a simple gold wedding band her only jewellery.  She looked up and her eyes welled; 'No more nurses in our family. I'm going to miss it'.
The Pendolino eased its way into the station. We gave each other a hug.  I watched as she dragged her wheelie through the barrier and was gone.
I'll probably never see her again. Neither will the NHS.
A life full of talent and vocation, nursing, experience and commitment. Here we are, in the middle of a workforce crisis that makes nurses one of the most precious people we have and she's had enough of us.
A resilient, practical woman at the peak of her knowledge and powers. How good are we at nurturing and fostering talent to watch her walk away.
That chance meeting summed up the quandary, the jam, the mess we've got ourselves into.  
... a brief encounter.
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