Dr John Smith

Kindness is a vital part of medical care, says Dr John Smith
Kindness is a vital part of medical care, says Dr John Smith

No-one would doubt that our hospital beds and services are under pressure.

It was ever thus. It is easy to look back and say that the grass was greener, but it wasn’t – the NHS 40 years ago had its problems but they were different ones.

There was less that we could do then and what we did took longer and because we can do so much more now there is increased pressure on hospital beds.

But, and there is always a but, something has been lost. I don’t quite know what the word is but the one I am tempted to use is kindness.

Kindness needs time, kindness needs relationships to form and allows them to form, kindness considers others before self and certainly before the system.

Kindliness could and should be part of the system.

An example from the 1970s: when women came into Kettering General for a hysterectomy they were in hospital for at least seven days, often 14, and then were sent to a convalescent home for up to two weeks after that.

Perhaps it was unnecessary but it was saying ‘you matter, we care about you’.

Now consider this. A patient has major surgery, told that they will need to be in for a few days, but 24 hours post-operatively they are told ‘we need your bed, you are going home’.

‘We need your bed’ are words that a patient should never hear.

What those words are saying is, there is somebody more ill than you are, we have no beds, she needs your bed, the problem for the hospital has become your problem.

It should never be the patient’s problem where the need of one is weighed against the need of another. The responsibility and accompanying guilt should not be given to the patient, the responsibility and guilt must stay within the system – the hospital – and with that responsibility goes the need to do something.