Reflect on the old, look forward to the new

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In 2012 I learned about Ubuntu, an African philosophy and way of living. I totally understand the meaning of Ubuntu now, that is, I am who I am because of who you are. At first to most people this statement might seem a little strange, but if you stop and reflect on it for a moment it makes so much sense. Last year I learnt how truly interconnected we are as human beings, how acts of kindness and generosity ripple out like stones being thrown into a pond and how those acts shape and develop us into the people we are.

The NHS continues to transform, and on a micro level, we know it’s necessary and absolutely right that it does so. The NHS began in 1948 and like all of our institutions such as education, the judiciary and the police, the NHS needs to be modernised. Today’s world and society are very different to that of post war Britain when the service was first set up. The population is different; demands on the service are different. As a Nation we are mighty proud of our NHS and quite rightly want to keep it ‘free at the point of need’ – therefore, changes to the system and redesign of services to meet the needs of our population is warranted. Of course in making these changes to systems, to organisations and to services, people are affected. None of the 1.3 million individuals that make up the NHS workforce can avoid the effects of these changes. At the same time, as new architecture and delivery options are being developed and constructed, the old systems are being dismantled and decommissioned. At a micro level the outcome of these changes is the impact it has on the individual, the men and the women that work in the system. This year I have seen many people leave the service, some happily and readily, others not so. The changes that we are experiencing are far reaching and will change the way that care is delivered in our country for the foreseeable future.

Over Christmas, my husband and I were looking at some old photo albums (there lies another change – people don’t keep physical albums anymore; most images are now recorded digitally). I have many pictures of friends and colleagues that I have worked with in the three and a half decades I’ve been in the service; photos of colleagues from my early nursing days at Central Middlesex Hospital, colleagues from St Bernard’s Hospital Ealing and colleagues from my days in Harrow PCT. These pictures made me smile and brought on waves of nostalgia for the ‘old’ days and the very many incredible people that I’ve met on my journey in the NHS. Many of the individuals in the pictures have now left the service, some because they were older than me and have retired, others to start their own businesses and others to return to their homelands.  The thing that struck me and stays with me is the fact that every single one of the people in the pictures had an effect on my life and helped make me the person that I am today. Ubuntu, I am me because of who you are. This is not to say that things were always good, but looking at the photos through rose coloured spectacles and several glasses of champagne made me feel a yearning and longing for those simpler less chaotic days.

We are heading into a New Year with new starts and new beginnings. We make resolutions, and mine are usually about losing weight, happily I can make different ones this New Year having already lost weight. This year, my resolutions are to be aware of the impact of my behaviours and actions; recognising that what I say and what I do has an effect on others and how they become who they are because of who I am. I will endeavour to remember that behaviours are like ripples in a pond, radiating out and touching everyone in its path. My second resolution is to say thank you to the people that help and support me in my work and in my life. So I’ll start today. I would like to raise a glass and say thank you to all the friends and colleagues that I’ve met on my journey in the NHS, to those that have helped and supported me and to those that have not, because of you I have become me.

In my current role as Senior Lead for Leadership for Equality in the NHS Leadership Academy I have wonderful colleagues that have enabled me to work with and meet some amazing people and do some wonderful things this year. I am indebted and grateful to Karen and Jan who have supported me to have had what has become an outstanding year. With grateful thanks to Paula, Nigel, Jim, Maureen, Joanne, Ramima, Cynthia and Jason. Special and loving thanks to Derek my husband and number one fan, my beautiful children and to the many other fabulous people too numerous to mention that have made 2012 a vintage year for me.

I wish everyone what I wish for myself; a truly happy, healthy and above all, peaceful New Year.