Sunday, 7 March 2010

Three foxes and Pearl Harbour

Hilter was a vegetarian. He banned fox hunting in Germany in1934. Tony Blair on the other hand loved his steak. Under Blairs leadership, the UK Labour Party used up over 700 hours of Parliamentary time trying to ban fox hunting. Eventually the Hunting Act became law in 2005. Ironically, the League for Cruel Sports has reported that since the ban on fox hunting was introduced in the UK the number of foxes killed by dogs has actually increased.

However, in the interest of fairness, I need to mention the work of the Countryside Alliance who campaigned long and hard against the Hunting Ban. It’s possibly forgotten now, but it was one Sarah Bell who provided an engaging if somewhat controversial aspect to their campaign. Although often described as that ‘long legged blonde 25 year old’ she was, at the time of the campaign, a qualified children’s nurse of nearly four years. Famously she was pictured in a poster campaign wearing her full hunting garb with the slogan ‘now they hate her’ alongside her wearing her nursing uniform with the slogan ‘now they don’t’

That was then and here we are some five years later. Without disclosing where I stood (or rode) on the Hunting ban issue, I was somewhat surprised to read that it was chickens and not dogs that had killed a fox this week.

It is alleged (Mail, Telegraph and Radio 4 amongst others) that three hens and a cockerel named Dude (which gives you a clue to the story’s authenticity) pecked a fox to death. Hmm… The Essex family (another clue perhaps) claimed to have previously lost chickens to foxes, and that they were aware of the danger foxes pose, which is presumably why they had built such an insecure hen house.

Having kept chickens for the last 35 years I doubt very much that these chickens pecked the fox to death! It was reported that a little table in the corner of the coop, which the chickens perch on, had been kicked over and was lying next to the fox's head. I would imagine this is what had killed the fox. Apart from fogs, mice and so on, chickens are not equipped to kill, whether by pecking someone or something to death or in any other way.

However, most Foxes are the complete opposite. Killing is what they do.

Hold that thought. I was at the Oval this week as an assessor for the first Mental Health Leadership Challenge. I had joined a panel of leading experts, practitioners and NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executives to participate in the event run by the Health Services Journal and the Nursing Times and sponsored by Mental Health Strategies, Care Principles and Nottinghamshire Health Care NHS Trust.

Teams of mental health practitioners and managers from all across England were joined by service user and carers in addressing a number of organizational and professional challenges arising out of a simulation exercise based around what the NHS in England as it is likely to look during the next few years. The event was competitive and developmental. The teams had to work through a number of issues that became more complex and demanding as the day progressed.

My role was to judge the progress of each team. Each team had to demonstrate team working, leadership, multi-agency involvement innovation and improvement. The event ended with a number of awards being made against these criteria. The event was in part, an opportunity for mental health services to review and explore how they address the issues set out in the New Horizons Mental Health Strategy.

This revised mental health policy for England seeks to reduce demand on secondary health services as well as achieve better health outcomes, including higher employment rates and lower suicide rates.

Amazingly all though the day we watched a fox follow the sun around the pitch. He seemed completely oblivious to the ground staff working on the pitch and just very languidly stayed and sunbathed for most of the day. Apparently he and his family have been living there since the summer of 2009.

Interestingly, is was a certain Annie Fox, who as the Chief Nurse in the US Army Nurse Corps, was awarded the Purple Heart for her work during the Japanese attack on Pearl harbour. During the attack, Lieutenant Fox administered anaesthesia to patients during the heaviest part of the bombardment, assisted in dressing the wounded, taught civilian volunteer nurses to make dressings, and worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency. It was said that as a Nurse she was able to demonstrate calmness, courage and leadership in a situation of great danger and personal threat.

It is unlikely that the Essex Dude will ever be able to make the same claim.