Reimagining the UK post Brexit – Education

imgresI have waited a while to write this post. It follows on in the series I started on this topic. It seems clear that the Brexit vote was about three key elements: taking control (whatever that means) of our own money, our own laws and our own immigration. I hope to write another blog on those three things another time, but in this time of transition, we must ask ourselves some questions about the kind of future we want to co-create.

 

imgresI have to say that when I look at our education system, I am both heartened and dismayed. I am heartened by the amazing quality of teachers across the UK, but I am dismayed by how they are treated as a profession by our mainstream press. I am heartened by the quality of our children and young people and the hopeful possibilities they carry, but I am dismayed by the increased burden of mental health problems many of them suffer. I am heartened that there is so much great thought around education and a shared learning between nations about how to release the potential in each child, but I am dismayed by the lack of application of this learning within the UK. I am heartened that there is an increasing realisation that Ofsted reports can offer only a small snapshot of what goes on in any school and are not a fair representation of all that goes on in any one institution, but I am dismayed by our growing measurement problem. By this I mean that the constant scoring and grading of our children and young people and the comparisons made between our various schools is so detrimental to their development and achievement that we ought to seriously consider the weight it is allowed to carry in our education systems. When our children and young people are some of the least happy in Europe and live in a country where the gap between the richest and poorest, both in terms of economics and educational ‘outcomes’ is one of the worst in Europe, we have to ask ourselves some searching questions.

 

So, in reimagining education, let’s reaffirm that every child is unique, beautiful,images worthy of love and full of potential. Let’s also recognise that our education system now is one of the few things that has not evolved since the time of the Industrial Revolution and is itself in need of serious renewal and transformation. In Germany, they have managed to elevate practical skills and knowledge to that of intellect. This has given them the ability as a nation to have a much more diverse economy, especially investing in green technologies and manufacturing in a way that cares for the future. In Finland, they have a reverence for the teaching profession that we would do well to adopt here. We need to think of teaching as a sacred gift and it needs to be taken this seriously by those who pursue it as a career. A Head Teacher I know recently told me that she no longer needs teachers who see themselves as having a job, but those who understand that teaching is a vocation and a calling. It is about being willing to parent a generation, not just fill them with knowledge.

 

Our educational environments must be places where we teach our children how to think, not just what to think, how to converse, not just what to say and how to listen attentively not only hear. We must help them learn about their own personalities and gift mixes. We must help them to think about the values from which they live, speak and act, helping them therefore to shape their behaviours in line with this (Steve Peters). We must allow them to question some of the damaging ways we live (war, pollution, work-patterns) and dream of and learn to create futures of peace, sustainability and wellness.  We need a vision large enough to ensure that each generation creates a seedbed of opportunity for the next.

 

The danger of becoming more ‘in control’ (as per our Brexit wishes) is that we become more controlling. The purpose of education is not to control but to release, not to maintain the status quo but to attain a brighter future, not to perpetuate hate and violence but to breathe love and peace, not to tear down but to build up and encourage,imgres not to divide but to build community, not to prepare human beings to be fodder for the economic machine but to ensure the economy serves them to be live a life of hope-filled potential. As with healthcare, we need to de-politicise the education system, hold dear in our hearts those given to teach, caring for their wellbeing and minding how we speak of them. We must partner with them and entrust them with our precious caterpillars as they hold them through the great metamorphosis that is learning before they spread their wings and make their flight to shine like stars in a future sky that the rest of us will never see.

My Manifesto for the UK Post Brexit (part 4 – Health and Social Care)

Health and Social Care

The UK is facing an existential crisis, especially when it comes to healthcare. I think it is part of the reason why the Labour party are in such appalling disarray at the moment. When the nation state as we have known it is beginning to fall apart, what is the role of the state? The question comes into sharp focus when it comes to our beloved NHS. The financial nightmare facing the NHS is in the press everyday. How much of this has been orchestrated by a bureaucratic system that wishes to see its demise we may never know. But the fact remains, there is a whole lot of debt, an ageing population with increasingly complex health and social needs and a significant underspend in terms of GDP on health compared to most of the other ‘developed’ nations.

Although I believe that we will (and need to) see increased localism, especially when it comes to political participation and economic alternatives, discovering together entirely alternative ways of being and organising ourselves, I still believe in a more national approach to health and social care, as for me, one of the roles of leadership is to ensure provision for those most easily forgotten about or marginalised in society.

Obviously this subject matter is far vaster than a short blog can offer, but here is a starter for ten:

I would therefore increase spending on health in line with need and GDP. I would support moves through partnerships between health and education to encourage our children and young people, in particular, to exercise and eat healthily, therefore breaking some of the health inequalities we see presently in the years ahead. I would look to improve the overall wellbeing of society, as we know that both extreme poverty and extreme wealth is bad for our health. We need to talk about physical, mental, social, spiritual and systemic health. We need a 70 year vision for healthcare, not something that changes with the wind of each new parliament. People would be empowered to care for their own wellbeing and look after one another, because where people are connected to one another, they flourish more readily. I would not privatise the NHS, but keep it public, learning lessons from around the world, ensuring our systems are continually improving and accountable but providing kind and compassionate health and social care to everyone in our communities. I would amalgamate the health and social care budgets. I would invest in measures to improve the overall mental health of the nation by looking at the root causes of our unhappiness and disconnectedness, ensuring those who need psychological therapies and psychiatric expertise are able to access this. I would ensure our staff are appropriately paid and would create a culture of participatory leadership, where we care for the health and wellbeing of those who work in the system. I recognise that health is best provided in the local community and will support the growth of integrated care communities, like those in Morecambe Bay. General Practice is the bedrock of such communities and will therefore be funded appropriately. Communication training, led by patient-experience, would be compulsory. All training would be integrative, problem based and solution focussed (that could do with some unpacking – maybe another time!).

I would break the negative cycle caused by the economics of ‘payment by results (PBR)’ and create participatory shared budgets, breaking down the walls of competition between segments of the system that need to collaborate. I would create emergency care hubs, co-locating services that need to work in an integrative manor. We have to face the fact, that it would take an enormous cultural shift to stop people walking through the doors of the ED, so let’s work with it, rather than trying to change the tide. I would want to see the 5 ways to wellbeing as part of every work place environment. In hospitals, there needs to be a focus on faster discharges (something the dreadful cuts to social care budgets across our county councils will only worsen), working with community teams to enable people to be cared for in their own homes. We need a complete overhaul of our residential and nursing home sector, finding areas of best practice and raising the bar significantly in terms of how we honour and care for our elderly citizens. We need to have a philosophical shift in our approach to death – it is an emotive subject and I have vlogged on it previously on my other blog http://www.reimagininghealth.com People need to be able to die well, and far too often they die in the strange surroundings of a hospital, cared for by people they do not know, when they could have died at home or in their nursing home, surrounded by people who love them. If only we could face up to the difficulties of death, we would embrace it in a much more healthy way…..(again I recommend Atul Gawande’s book ‘Being Mortal’).

Reimagining the United Kingdom

imgresIt is no secret that I voted to remain in the EU. All 3 generations of my family, who were eligible to vote, also voted to remain (and my kids would have voted the same way, had they had the chance – under no parental pressure, you understand!). And yet, as my long departed Nanna would say (the one, who knew all the names of her grandchildren after her stroke, except mine, and called me, Edith!)…. “Well, here we are….”

 

Here we are indeed. I am disappointed and sad, but here we are. We have some deeply painful and complicated times ahead of us, but for those of us who voted to remain, what we must not do is retreat into a finger pointing woundedness that is willing to embrace the ‘other’ in Europe, but the reject the ‘other’ in the UK, who felt that Brexit was the way to go. No. In a world where we long for a positive approach to peace, for reconciliation under-girded by our first value to love one another, we must hold ourselves to account and dig deep to remember who we are and what kind of future we want to build together.

 

There are some really really important conversations for us to have right across the UK that will help us to face up to and heal the wounds we have exposed. Both sides of the debate over the EU have some significant hurts and many of them go deeper than a simple in/out referendum could ever address.

 

So, how do we engage together and have conversations with people from different sides of the dividing line about what kind of UK we might see develop? What might we reimagine together? Is there a hope of a Union left? Here are some things that I would like to explore in some upcoming blogs and see what conversations emerge:

 

imagesOntology – what?! Yep – in the end, so much of who we are and how we live, what we align ourselves with and how we would choose to shape our future together depends on this. Basically – why are we here? What is our purpose? We need to understand this at an individual and a corporate level. As I have suggested in my other blog (www.reimagininghealth.com) our health and wellbeing actually depends on having a life that aligns with this sense of knowing why we are.

 

Theology and Philosophy – what?! Yes – again, so much of our life in this nation and imgrescertainly our politics is under-girded by things people have/have not believed about God and his/her interaction with the world. Whether you are a person of faith or not, it is difficult to deny that for good or ill, the geopolitical worldview of the West has been hugely shaped by the partnership of church and empire over the preceding several centuries. This area of thought and study especially shapes our understanding of ‘Sovereignty’.

 

Economics – this is more obvious. How we choose to “order our house” has huge imgresimplications of how we then live in the world. David Cameron tells us there is ‘no alternative’ to the Neoliberal economic agenda with its reliance on the ‘benevolent’ free market, competition, privatisation, biopower and austerity. And whether the UK or the EU is the worst proponent of this, I’m not sure, but perhaps other options are available to us. Maybe we don’t need to have an ever widening gap between the rich and poor. Maybe we don’t have to have a London-Centric (or even with the emergence of a Northern Powerhouse, a Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds-Centric) economy. Does our economy always have to grow? If it does – what does this mean for the creation of a peaceful world or our ecosystems? Isn’t it high time we had a good hard look at what our policies are doing to the world we live in, or demand in terms of war and self-protectionism? I recently trained as an executive coach – I can tell you for sure, there are always options…..it is a lie to say that we have no alternative. We do. We can have a fairer society and perhaps it’s time for us to say to the corporate giants who threaten us that they will up and leave if we don’t give them enormous tax breaks and turn a blind eye to their greed, that we will find a kinder way of being without them. There are options open to us of renationalisation of some things, co-operatives, credit unions, gift economies, time banking and many other things explored by top economists, which the press give no voice to.

 

And then we have more surface issues. What about our relationship with Europe and the rest of the world now? Surely we aren’t going to believe we have some kind of Empire-like influence in the world anymore? The British Empire and Christendom are both over! So, now that we don’t have them and we’re not part of the EU – what kind of partnerships do we want with other nations?

 

imagesAnd what about education? Is it OK that there was such a massive split in how people voted according to what they had achieved at an academic level? Are we developing academic snobbery? Are we developing education systems where there is an understanding of important issues like the one we’ve just had a referendum about? If it wasn’t for our dinner time conversations, my kids would know nothing about the EU – but thanks to Michael Gove, they can tell me about subordinate clauses and modal verbs! There is something very wrong with that.

 

5517007247_63d55ac8f5_m[1]For healthcare – we already know that the Brexit campaign told us a complete lie about how much extra funding would be available to the NHS. But here we are! Given our current economic policies, it is difficult to see how our Nation’s favourite brand will survive. You cannot believe in an ever shrinking state and increased privatisation and continue to have the best and fairest healthcare system in the world! This is why we need greater participatory leadership and truer representative democracy!

 

Ecology, peace-making and so much more need to be the discussions around our kitchen tables, on our walks and in our cafes and pubs. Enough of the hypnosis by our media! Let’s find each other again, heal our hurts, listen, seek to understand and together find solutions for how we are going to live in this world. Here is to a future of love, hope and peace. I will explore some more of this in the coming blogs.

Kenarchy – New Hope for the Political Left

Michael Sheen wrote a brilliant article in the New Statesman this last week (https://t.co/64vmmjC0if), asking some serious questions of the Labour Party. Here is my personal view about where new hope can be found for the political left (not that labour necessarily represent that anymore…..)

Why I’m Voting Green

Unknown-1My kids love to know who my wife and I are voting for and we want to be a family that talks about this kind of stuff around our dinner table. So we told them “this year, we’re firmly nailing our green colours to the mast”. They didn’t know what that meant, so we told them – “we’re voting GREEN”!

I’ve read a surprising amount of the manifestos of each of the parties this year. Before doing so, I was highly inclined not to vote at all as I feel the political class/system is so out of touch with real life and there seems to be little radical voice in the arena. However, I have become hopeful that the Green party really are standing for some hugely important issues and offering a real alternative.

Here is my summary of why I am voting green:

Unknown-2A New Politics – Caroline Lucas has not been afraid to challenge the status quo. I believe we must find an inclusive, love based politics if we are going to find a new and reimagined future together. I believe the Green party are truest to this hope. I also love the gentle, gracious, intelligent and firm leadership of Natalie Bennett – for me, she was outstanding in the leaders’ debate and held her nerve in the face of the ‘old boys club’. As a feminist, I am passionate about seeing women fully instated in leadership, not just ‘talked-up’. The leadership we are seeing from Natalie and Caroline is of a different order from the brash, bullying, testosterone-fuelled alternatives. Unknown-1

Healthcare – It might surprise some, as a GP that I say this, but for me the Greens have a serious and well thought through health policy. Their health policy is more holistic and more just (for those who need health care the most) than any of the other parties. I have to say, both Labour and the Lib Dems are also saying some great stuff, but overall, the Greens are willing to shift the conversation to where we need it to go – from an illness model towards promoting health and wellbeing.

Education – Our children have become commodities of the economic state. I love that the Greens are talking far more holistically and compassionately about the future of our children. Unknown

Environment – It needs hardly be said, but this issue is actually going to kill us and we need some people in government who are going to help us make some massive changes to our energy supplies and the ways we are choosing to live. Their view is comprehensive and holistic. The raping of the earth’s resources and high CO2 levels are far more dangerous than the threat of terrorism. We must face this hard truth and act now.

Defence and International Development – Here we have a dual policy that makes sense. Stop our own hypocritical nuclear arsenal and make for positive peace by tackling poverty in the developing world.

UnknownEconomy – Huge fresh creation of new jobs in making the world more beautiful through green technologies, massive investment back into the public sector and encouraging those of us more able to be less self-protective and share the greater burden of taxation, rather than crushing the poor whilst the rich get ever richer. I also like that they will hold banks and big business to better account.

Immigration – There are too many awful lies being peddled about asylum seekers and refugees. I believe in open borders and intercultural rich diversity. I believe in interdependence and love, not fear, independence and hate.

Justice – A fresh look at the criminal justice system, with a move towards restorative justice is from my perspective the only way to go.

Voting – I refuse to be told that my vote will be a wasted vote. I am fed up of the arrogance of the system that tells me there are only two alternatives. The old politics is over. We are entering the day of coalitions and finding our way to a wholly different kind of political system. I am voting Green, not to be tactical, not to be pig-headed, not out of fear, but because I believe they genuinely hold the brightest torch for the things that matter the most not for me, but for everyone. We cannot vote out of selfish self-protectionism. We must position ourselves for the future generations and the future of this planet. That is why I am voting GREEN!images

NHS in Crisis?

imgresAnd so it begins……the year of a General election and the NHS takes centre stage. Some serious hyperbole. According to our tabloids we have ‘A 3rd World A&E’! Please! I’ve worked in the developing world and this is nothing. Despite all the rhetoric, the WHO still says the NHS is the best and fairest health system in the world…..so perspective is important.

But is the NHS in crisis? It is, and it’s not just the emergency departments. General Practice continues to be in a major crisis too and so if the answer to the A&E (ED) crisis lies in General Practice then the crisis in the community is doubled! But my ED colleagues are having an horrific time and the answers to the conundrum are not easy ones.

Labour have called for an emergency summit on Accident and Emergency and the NHS in general, as if the writing has not been on the wall for quite some time. Short term solutions will do nothing to create a safe and sustainable NHS, accessible to all.

We do have some hard truths to face in the UK and we have to understand the cost implications to some of the possible solutions. But I do believe there is real hope and that there are creative solutions available. It is time for a revolution in our thinking.

The problems are as follows:

1) We have an aging population with increasingly complex health needs.

2) Our social services at at full capacity and we have a break down in a sense of community in how we care for and love our ‘neighbours’.

3) We have adopted a health philosophy that is about ‘killing disease’ instead of ‘promoting health’. This is due to a combination of far too much power being given to the advertising, fast food and alcohol lobbies, taking exercise out of schools and too much screen time generally for kids and adults alike.

4) We have adopted a way of life that has driven up stress significantly causing a rise in mental health issues.

5) We have deliberately under trained doctors and nurses in this country, relying on free market principles that we could recruit staff more cheaply from abroad, (not caring that we are seriously destabilizing other health economies in the process). In the same way, we are losing many of our young doctors and nurses to other nations who will pay more for less hours (like Australia and Canada).

6) In order to keep the NHS afloat, managing structures in the NHS have become increasingly bullying, creating low morale, high sickness records for staff and a sense of despair. This is turn has a direct effect on poorer care for patients.

7) We have over-medicalised life and given far too much power to the pharmaceutical lobby. Targets have been set which are meaning tighter and tighter control of people’s health with medication, creating ever more health anxiety and increasing illness behaviour.

8) We have developed a sense of entitlement and self-centredness overall, which puts huge strain on systems, especially A&E. There is a huge abuse of the system and misuse of services without consequence.

9) There has been a significant lack of local people being able to be involved in any way with how taxation is spent whilst greedy corporations and banks can act exactly as they please, leaving a lack of investment in healthcare to the tune of several billion pounds.

10) We don’t trust our own immune systems to work and have become over reliant on antibiotics.

11) We are afraid of death and having conversations about it in any kind of mature way. We keep on treating people endlessly with antibiotics in nursing homes, when we should allow people to die (not be killed) in a dignified manner.

12) We have far too much waste and too many barriers/walls within a complex system, leaving key sections of the system in direct competition rather than collaboration/cooperation with one another.

13) Oh yeah, and we had a 2 billion pound reorganisation of the NHS which happened despite a ‘listening process’ which strongly warned against it.

And some solutions-based, hopeful, practical thinking?

1) Change the way we think about health. We have to live healthily andimgres
promote healthy living from time of conception to time of death. We need healthy pregnant women, more breast feeding and healthy diets and exercise from a young age. We need to be more responsible….

2) Change the way we think about health. The biggest breakthroughs in medicine by a mile were clean water, sanitation and immunisations. We need to trust our immune systems to do the job they do very well, and care for our selves better before needing to run off to the health professionals to fix us.

3) Change the way we think about health. Try being grateful for the incredible healthcare we already have.

4) Change the way we think about health. We need to understand the impact of our chosen way of life on our physical, mental, social and spiritual health. We have become slaves, the fodder, the raw material of an economic system that eats us up and spits us out, allowing 85 people to hold more combined wealth than the poorest 2 billion on earth. If we haven’t understood that this awful injustice crushes our spirits and therefore our well-being on a daily basis, then we have understood little. The mountains must be brought low and the valleys raised up. It is a proven fact that people are least happy where the gap between rich and poor is widest. The UK has the widest gap in Europe by some margin! We go to work to earn enough money to pay our debts which drive the system. We come home, hypnotize ourselves in front of the TV and return to the same thing the next day, not wondering if we actually destroying the planet, other people and ourselves in the process. And if we don’t live this way anymore? Perhaps we could find more creative ways to live that bring a more beautiful future to the fore?

5) Change the way we practice healthcare. We need to transform tired systems and help them integrate to provide far more stream lined and effective care. The walls between primary and secondary care must come down and new collaboration be found.

6) Change the way we practice healthcare. We need to create a culture in the NHS which is life giving for staff (see earlier posts).

7) Change the way we practice healthcare. We need to allow people to die with dignity, especially in conditions like end stage dementia, rather than keeping people living on and on, just because we can.

8) Change the way we practice healthcare. Involve local people to create a groundswell of change, with a far greater sense of caring for the ‘other’ and our ‘neighbours’ with greater local decision making in how money is spent.

9) Change the way we practice healthcare. We must see a reduction in  power of the pharmaceutical lobby in parliament. The influence of this lobby on healthcare policy and provision is utterly corrupt and has caused much of the unsustainable mess we are in.

10) Change the way we practice healthcare. We must train people more effectively and make the NHS a desirable place to work in once again.

And the list could go on. A revolution in our healthcare system is needed. Transformation is really possible. We must not seek answers which lead to death elsewhere. We have some tough choices and changes to make, but there is so much hope.