Trains, planes, and automobiles: Making the ‘What Matters to You’ films

by Anna Lodge

Stgilesmedical is currently making two films to encourage ‘what matters to you?’ conversations. In the UK, we’re not good at sharing our hopes, fears, or goals. This sharing can be particularly important towards the end of life, and, as the current pandemic has shown, opportunities are often missed.

The films have been commissioned by multiple stakeholders, including the Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, Marie Curie, Macmillan, Compassionate Communities, and various other UK organisations. Our aim was to hear 20 diverse stories or opinions that, together, would change the debate. These voices were to come from all four countries of the UK. With nine days booked in the diary for filming, and local COVID-19 restrictions looming, this was going to be a challenge — even with the help of Zoom.

After reaching out to potential interviewees, we planned our route. We were initially concerned that we wouldn’t have enough material, but, as the days went on, more people showed interest. To our delight, the list of interviewees grew to over 50. The logistical task of fitting them all into such a short period proved taxing!

Filming involved journeys by ‘train, plane and automobile’ to Sheffield, Bradford, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol, Dorset, London, Newcastle, and Scotland. We visited hospitals, hospices, a mosque, universities, a remote farmhouse with a stream at the end of the garden, the beautiful countryside north of Edinburgh, and a few pubs. The team was exhausted afterwards!

Along the way, we spoke to dying patients, bereaved relatives, palliative care consultants, specialist nurses, GPs, faith leaders, academics, a commissioner, a well-known politician, and a famous actor — all with inspiring stories to tell. As diverse as the voices were, however, they shared a clear message: it’s important to talk more and often with friends, family, and healthcare professionals about what matters to you now and in the future.

Rediscovery of treatment option for COVID-19

by Max Watson

With the number of people infected with COVID-19 rising across the country and alarm growing that the NHS will struggle to cope, the urgency in the quest for a safe vaccine and effective new medications has never been higher.

 

One old measure has largely been forgotten in the growing weariness, anger and distrust that the UK is experiencing as it prepares to face the COVID/ Brexit uncertainties of the coming winter months.

 

Back in the spring, despite the fear and the unprecedented distress that so many people endured there was also some sense of unity. The Thursday night clapping for the NHS exemplified that spirit of togetherness in the midst of dark times, as did the million volunteers seeking ways to help and support those who were most at risk.

 

A few months later society has moved on, the clapping has stilled, and the blame has intensified. It is the lack of leadership. It is those students. It is those irresponsible party goers. It is the scientists. It is those hospital staff who let Daddy get COVID. It is the politicians who are decimating the economy. It is, - ‘them’.

 

The length of time that lives have been disrupted by the pandemic has been just too long. It has worn us down, used up our resilience and patience and is fast fracturing our communities as we project our unease, anger and frustration from a virus we cannot see onto others that we can point out as being in our eyes some how responsible.

 

We have learned that COVID causes multidimensional damage, not just to the many different organs in the body, but to the whole NHS’s ability to look after all in need, including those who do not have COVID, to the growing number of unemployed affected by an economy which has suffered devastation, to the pupils and students at schools and colleges who have seen their education radically disrupted, and to those struggling to cope with the mental impact of this time of uncertainty and loss.

 

One of the most devastating impacts of COVID has been less critically observed. The pandemic is also destroying much of the cohesiveness, compassion and trust on which a society depends if it is to be the sort of place where all generations can thrive and grow and feel connected and valued.

 

A stark realisation is that we could end up getting through this pandemic only to have, in the process, created a country which has learned to be fearful, selfish, angry, distrustful and embittered. A society of high walls and higher segregation. A society of them and us, of burgeoning court cases suing whoever we think is responsible for our losses. A small individualistic society in which there is little time or space for the caring, support and community living that is crucial to allow us as social beings to thrive and grow.

 

And the vital treatment option that we would all benefit from imbibing? Kindness. Kindness in COVID for those hard pressed health care staff who do not always get it right but who are truly trying so hard in the face of impossible demands and grinding weariness. Kindness in

COVID for that person who is just more rude and abrupt than normal. Kindness in COVID for those having to make impossible decisions based on conflicting evidence. Kindness in COVID when anger and quick judgements would produce more immediate satisfaction. Kindness in COVID for that small business owner distraught as a lifetime’s investment dissolves in lockdowns. Kindness in COVID for ourselves as we take account of how our own physical, mental and social health has been affected by COVID.

 

Kindness is widely available, does not require licensing and has been shown to have immediate impacts and good supplies were in evidence in the spring.

As a treatment kindness, even in small aliquots could allow us as a society to retain those vital human links and connections so central to making life beyond COVID something worth looking forward to.

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