Sunday, 13 October 2013

An Alphabetti type Week spent in almost Parallel Universes

My Outlook Calendar regularly becomes littered with acronyms and abbreviations describing what it is I am to do. For example, the week started with an OMG (Operational Management Group) meeting with the Schools Directors, quickly followed by a EMB (Executive Management Board) strategic planning day. Late afternoon it was agreeing the CRaIC College Research and Innovation agenda, and that was Monday. Tuesday, it was a day of back to back meetings, including  preparing for a FfPP (Fitness for Professional Practice) Appeal and a FfPP Panel hearing to be heard later in the week.

Wednesday I had to make my apologies to the GMW (Greater Manchester West NHS Mental Health Trust) Members meeting as the HCPC (Health and Care Professional Council) and TCSW (The College of Social Work) were starting the first of a 2 day approval visit for what was to be the third SU3 (Step Up – Social Work 3) programme. By Thursday we learnt we were going to be recommended for approval by the HCPC and endorsed by TCSW and we were going to do so on the back of such good feedback from students on their experience, and employers because of the high quality newly qualified Social Workers they were able to employ.

Friday and we had the HENW (Health Education North West) ARM (Annual Review Meeting). The ARM is an occasion to see if the School had met the quality assurance targets set by the HENW for our NHS (National Health Service) commissions - and we had! Again it was wonderful to see and hear the reports from our students who found their lecturers inspirational, motivating, and supportive.

So things were going well. And then I came across the news from the former NHS CMO (Chief Medical Officer - Sir Liam Donaldson) that doctors over the age of 55 are 6 times more likely to give rise to major performance concerns. In fact 6179 doctors had caused concern over the last 10 years according to Donaldson. Male doctors were twice as likely as female doctors, particularly those working obstetrics, gynaecology, and psychiatry, to be referred to the NCAS (National Clinical Assessment Service).

Now I was totally confused. I thought the report was about the recently formed NCA (National Crime Agency) - the British equivalent of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). I wondered what on earth they were doing getting involved with the performance of doctors? Well I guess that one explanation might be that as far back as 2000, Dr Richard Smith, the then Editor of the BMJ (British Medical Journal) reported that up to 30,000 people a year in Britain die of medical errors with many more people being injured and suffer other consequences.

The president of the GMC (General Medical Council) at the time, Sir Donald Irvine said it was a complete fallacy to think that doctors should be expected never to make mistakes – and that as medicine is a judgement based discipline, it is inevitable that mistakes will happen. Of course, on this occasion the mistake I made was confusing the NCAS with the NCA (and what is an S between friends?) – however it’s possible to see how such tiny differences in understanding, perception or experience, can lead to at best confusion, and at worse, utter destructiveness.

Last week, in a parallel universe that is my world as Head of School, I experienced a little of this. It wasn't a good place to be. However, taking a step back, I was reminded of my long term desire to show unconditional regard to others by recalling the words of one of my all-time favourite poets T S Eliot – in his book the Cocktail Party, he noted that: ‘half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because that are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves’.  Today, thankfully, marks the start of a new week. And a big thank you to all of you who chose to read my Empathy blog - you have truly helped spread the word in such a magnificent way.