Blog 3: Kayleigh Barnett – the TEDxNHS series

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Nov 08 2019 Blogs

My final blog focuses on the sessions around rehabilitation, discrimination, PTSD and life limiting medical conditions.

After a brief comedy interlude (provided by Becky Brunning) it was straight into the next session and this one really did floor me. Kate Morrissey challenged us all to consider whether we really and truly believe in rehabilitation. Of course immediately I though “of course I do“. Then she asked, “would you let a drug addict, with 33 criminal convictions into your home?” Which somewhat changed my answer…until I really thought about it. If we champion rehab in the NHS, how can we then say that when it comes to our own families, we don’t believe that someone who has been fully rehabilitated could save them? Kate is an ex-heroin addict who works in our NHS as a senior national programme manager in Mental Health and also in the ambulance service. Despite having worked for a number of years in the ambulance service with a spotless record, Kate was recently suspended because a new policy now meant she was unable to continue working for them with her history. Would you really care what someone’s history was, if they were the person who could save your life?

This session really made me rethink my own biases and I believe has genuinely made me a better person!

Tweet credit: @isabelska

Next we heard from Prerena Issar who is the first NHS Chief people officer, having previously held senior roles at the United Nations. Prerana talked about finding our sense of purpose and then helping others to do the same by sharing our own. If we are passionate about it, talk about it, and this will inspire others to do the same.

Tweet credit: @dipeshgopal

Next we heard from Alexandra Adams. Alexandra is the first deafblind person in the UK to be trained as a Dr, currently in her 4th year of medical school. She talked about the discrimination she has faced from the people responsible for developing her skills (which I find truly heartbreaking!) She is also responsible for the ‘Faces of the NHS: 1.5 million stars’. Alexandra further embedded my belief that we shouldn’t limit people by our beliefs of their abilities, and should allow everyone to shine regardless of their perceived limitations.

Tweet credit: @sbattrawden

The penultimate session I attended was from Charlie Webster who is a sports broadcaster who lives with PTSD following abuse as a teenager and a near death experience after contracting malaria. Charlie spoke about her experience of living with PTSD and talked about how if we accept that our brains can save us, why do we not accept that they can break us too? She also asked how many people that we think of as bad (expelled children, prisoners etc ) are ‘acting out’ due to undiagnosed trauma? When trauma happens, how much of the treatment is physical rather than concentrating on the mental impact of the trauma. What impact could we have on outcomes if we focused on mental health rehab after physical trauma?

Tweet credit: @CharlieCW

The final speaker I managed to stay for was Lucy Watts. Lucy is a young adult who lives with a life limiting medical condition, the root of which remains undiagnosed. She shared how, upon being told her diagnosis was terminal, it was a different sentence that changed her life’ ‘What do you want to do with your life now?’ The personalised care she has received and continues to receive from her palliative care and hospice teams has allowed her to live her life to the fullest, not wasting days, because she doesn’t have days to waste. She talked about how everyone should be planning for end of life, because everyones life has a terminal diagnosis. As the mortality lead here at AQuA this really resounded with me. Death planning is a drum I beat constantly (and it has lost me a few dinner party invites I can assure you) but as a society we are so uncomfortable talking about death and dying. Wouldn’t you rather know what your loved ones wanted at the end of their lives, rather than having the additional stress of trying to work it out whilst dealing with your loved one (or yourself) dying? If we are comfortable with the idea of birth plans, then surely we should be comfortable with the idea of death plans?

Tweet credit: @kbarnett2019

And with that, I was on the train home. There were 3 further sessions that I was really disappointed to have to miss. Fatima Elguenuni was talking about the Grenfell tower fire and her personal story, Sarah Hesz and Katie Massie-Taylor talked about their social app, aimed at reducing loneliness and confidence crises for new mums, and Rachel Pilling and Dan Wadsworth were talking about what each of you could do in 15 seconds that would save someone else 30 minutes of frustration. Whatever it may be- filling the printer with paper rather than leaving it for the next person, writing one email instead of 10 – how can we all help to reduce each others frustration and create joy in work.

Of all the things that struck me from the conference (and there were many, hence the crazy length of this blog!) one thing I really took home was how amazing our NHS really is, and how we should all appreciate the component parts that make up such an amazing whole.

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