Our Future Health & Happiness – an essay by John Walsh


“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.” William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The time of this writing is winter. Snow and ice cover the ground and chill fills the air. Yet whatever the season there can be writing and dreaming. What are my dreams for health and the service that bears that name – the National Health Service? I have many. I will share one dream and it is a dream that involves us all whether we are patients, carers or staff ( or all three ).

In June 1908 there was an extraordinary event in Russia. There was a massive explosion of energy in the sky. It is reckoned to be the largest impact event in recorded history. We are not sure what it was. Some say a comet hit the area.  Or a meteorite, a black hole passing through the earth or anti matter falling to earth. There are a number of explanations offered. Whatever the cause whatever hit the area was incredibly powerful. 80 million trees are reported to have been knocked down and the afterglow could be seen in certain parts of  the European night sky. It has been estimated it was a 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was a massive explosion of energy which impacted the area for miles and miles. The release of this dynamic force changed the landscape.

You may be asking what this has to do with my dream. The connection is that human beings have tremendous potential and potency and yet this often lies dormant.  We do not see it or know how to release it. If we look at a service like the NHS we see incredible gifts, qualities and skills. We find intelligence, compassion, care, creativity and innovative vision. I do not believe our problem is addition – adding things to our services. It is nutrition  – how we grow the tremendous powers and energies we have. The Tunguska event shows what happens when a mighty explosion of energy and dynamic force happens. If we could realise and release our inner energies and goodness I think we would have a Tunguska moment in the NHS. It wouldn’t flatten trees. It would transform our services and the way we think and do health. It would create the best cultures and care possible. It would mean a personal and professional growth of people as people.

What might this look like? There are three aspects of it which would light up the sky of health and wellbeing. The first is that health would be personal. People would cease to be numbers or problems. We would see through the problem to the person. That person we would see as a unique and special person full of possibility. We would call them by their names and our focus would be to create the most positive relationship and loving care we could. The second aspect would be that this care would be holistic. It would cater to the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social needs of the person. The person would be at the centre and management of their own care.  It would work in respectful and learning ways in partnership with carers, family, friends,statutory, voluntary and faith sectors. The last aspect is that it would engender hope. Hope is the seeing of a tomorrow. The culture, conversations and engagement would be filled with hope and possibility despite the problems. Deep care and support would run through all this.

The amazing thing about this dream is that it is already happening around us. There are signs and seeds all across our services and country. I have had the immense privilege of meeting and working with its custodians and practitioners. Nurses, doctors, patients, carers, support workers, chaplains, admin staff, students and many more. All with a passion. All with a hope and vision. These people give me hope and inspire me to go on. They are the prophets and hearts of a new future. So I continue to dream. The seeds and shoots are already showing. Unlike Shakespeare this dream is not rare or past our comprehension. Who knows? One day I may open my eyes from the dream state and find the whole landscape filled with these beautiful things.

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