Topic for Melting Pot Lunch 20 September 2017 ‘Geno-what’? A new technology is sweeping across the NHS, but what can it offer and what does it mean?
Genomics - the ability to test for 20,000 genes in one go - is now available in many clinical services. Whilst you may not have personally accessed such testing, someone you are biologically related to may be offered it. And the questions that they have answered may be of interest to you too.
For well over one hundred years people have been arguing about the second chamber of Parliament. What powers should it have? Who should sit in it? And do we need a second chamber at all? If we do, what possible justification can there be for an unelected House, made up largely of superannuated political appointees and people who owe their position in it to an accident of birth? How can such a chamber be representative of the people that it is meant to serve?
No, this wasn’t Kaleidoscope’s take on Mayweather vs. McGregor. Melting Pot Punch was a far more peaceful event, although we won’t pretend there wasn’t some tension when the last piece of cake was offered round.
Taking place on August 23rd, Melting Pot Punch was Kaleidoscope’s way of celebrating one year of Melting Pot Lunches – an opportunity to celebrate 12 months of meal deals and breaking bread with over 200 people – and a chance to try out a new Melting Pot format.
Today, one photo, a single email or a simple hashtag can launch a worldwide movement.
Alicia Garza posted a Facebook post that ended in ‘black lives matter’, Patrisse Cullors created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and Opal Tometi took the phrase Black Lives Matter and helped turn a hashtag into a transnational networked movement. This was their call to action. Three women, who wanted to address the issue of racism, who reimagined a world that is a better place and created a movement that challenges systemic racism in every context.
Culture is possibly the most important, but also over-used and, at times, meaningless concept deployed by those interested in the organisation and improvement of healthcare.
We are frequently told that high performing organisations have the 'right culture'. And in healthcare, organisations with the ‘right culture’ are often seen as safer, more efficient or more responsive.
When I took up post at Healthwatch England in 2013, I had travelled across many policy domains, working in charities, in academia and in government, but I was a newcomer to health.
With the natural curiosity of the foreigner in a new land, I was intrigued by the amount of heat generated in conversations about patient and public involvement. I saw emotions run high, and predominant amongst those emotions was frustration. Frustration from patient groups who ask: why are we not being heard/taken seriously/in the right conversations at the right times? And frustration too from the managers, commissioners and practitioners who wearily confess that engagement feels like another burden, a further task on their crowded to-do lists.
The NHS is – famously – our best-loved institution. When BritainThinks run focus groups, people up and down the country tell us that the NHS is in ‘the marrow of our bones’, that it is the UK’s ‘crown jewel’ and that it represents the best of what it is to be British.
Public concern about the NHS is rising. Participants are describing difficulties getting an appointment with GPs, their hospital appointments are being pushed back, and there is worry that hard-pressed NHS staff no longer seem to have the time to care. This is backed up by national-level polling; in Ipsos MORI’s April Issues Index, 48% of respondents identified the NHS as one of the top three issues facing Britain today. This is on a par with Brexit and an eight-point increase since December 2016.
In terms of its mouth-to-trousers ratio, you'd expect the media to be long on the mouth aspect: it is, after all, the business of communication.
As for the trousers bit, the first pertinent question is who wears them and why. The majority of the UK media is in right-of-centre ownership and indeed editorship, as the MP for Tatton's recent career move shows.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the NHS (which is the bit of socialism the British people like and think effective, judging by its iconic status in repeated opinion polls of reasons people are proud to be British) is politically and philosophically not an evident fit with right-of-centre values.
The King’s Fund has said the same for the last 20 years, and the BMA for much longer. It was Labour who created the NHS Constitution, and Tories and Lib Dems who sought to circumscribe politicians’ NHS powers through the much loved 2012 Act.
What’s the attraction here? Arguments typically revolve around health care being too important to let grubby politicians near.
In my experience, the NHS can be very introverted, and in some cases, insular. I worked for the NHS for over 30 years, but it wasn’t until I was running the hospital in Harlow in the late-90s and was invited to participate in a cross-community partnership for the town that I realised that this was the case. That partnership opened my eyes to the wider world beyond my hospital, and most importantly, to the community that we served.
I hope that things have changed since my “epiphany”, and I suspect that if I had worked in a different sector of the NHS I might have become more aware, more quickly. However, I’m not sure that my experience would have necessarily been substantively different.