Forests of the future by Joan Pollard

Having agreed to provide a blog I then faced the challenge of what to write, decision making not being my greatest strength when the world is my oyster. However a trip to a favourite local wildlife sanctuary and Viv, Linda and Chris’s blog of last week struck a chord.

Viv likened the health and social care system to a beat up old 1940’s car, I think of it like a traffic jam. Albeit the success of our system to date meaning that this is a jam of cars of all ages, varieties and in varying state of health.


At the weekend I went to visit the local wildlife sanctuary, at dusk, in the hope of catching sight of red squirrels. Leaving behind the road and walking into the woods we ignored (not to be recommended) the warning signs that forestry work was underway. It was after all a Sunday afternoon and was peaceful so we believed (rightly as it turned out) that nothing would be happening.

En route to the hide we were shocked to see the impact of the forestry works with huge swathes of the forest having been felled and piles of logs lying beside the path. The stillness of the evening was broken by the constant noise of the cars on the nearby road. How different the perspective for only having travelled a few hundred metres. The unexpectedness of the noise was reminiscent of a visit to the allied health professionals who have remained in the Mountainhall Treatment Centre with the echoing empty clip, clip, clip of footsteps on the floor as I walked down the corridor towards the department. A corridor I have travelled thousands of times before but change brings a different perspective. Like the forest, when listening more deeply the sounds of thriving life were evident and like the forest this is only one step in a journey towards a new future.

There were no squirrels to be seen as they had taken wise council and moved out for the moment. Meantime, however, there was a beautiful sunset silhouetting the remaining trees against the sky. The half light reminded me of a weekend spent in DGRI in the middle of January when the hospital was coping with the increased demands that Viv referred to. Indeed a nurse described the previous day as one of the busiest in their career . Despite this, the beauty of a hospital waking up was evident. Walking in through the atrium I was met with the tired faces of the night shift as they head home for the day, further into the hospital the corridors were lit with the nurses working their way round the wards providing care and breakfast to their patients. All felt well and peaceful.

The pressures were immediately apparent upon attending the whole hospital huddle and, as I joined a multidisciplinary and multiagency team, of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, pharmacists and members of the team from Social Work Services and Scottish Ambulance Services, to work together to support flow. Many of this team had not met before this weekend but all worked towards the same goal. Communication between the team was excellent and frequent and at points throughout the weekend each member of the team stepped forwards to lead. It was an honour to participate.

The structural changes to mark the start of new ways of working have taken place with the migration of the new hospital complete and the Health and Social Care Partnership established and now we are in the business of transition. William Bridges would suggest that there are three phases: ending, neutral zone and then new beginnings which involve new understandings and should give people a part to play in the transition.

In moving towards the new beginnings it may be that we should take lessons from the geese that are currently flying overhead,

They know where they are heading and everyone in the team is important. When the lead tires everyone should be brave and step up to take their turn to lead. They communicate constantly and look after each other on the way. Perhaps in this way we can streamline our traffic jam


Like my favourite local wildlife sanctuary this transition from newly planted saplings to fully developed forest will take time and care. The replanting of the forestry will be diverse as a successful natural forest, including many different types of tree, is the best for supporting its wildlife community. I am hopeful that in developing new ways of working to support the population of Dumfries and Galloway our teams will be equally diverse including and valuing the unique contributions of doctors, nurses, social work services, third and independent sectors and each of the allied health professions.


Joan Pollard is Associate Director of Allied Health Professions at NHS Dumfries and Galloway


4 thoughts on “Forests of the future by Joan Pollard

  1. Hello Joan
    Great blog, really interesting thoughts and great analogies that got me thinking. Plus any person that can connect Red Squirrels and NHS structure/ways of working is a great person. The term for a group of red squirrels is a “scurry” sounds appropriate for busy NHS professionals too.

  2. Joan, I loved reading your blog and in my imagination joined you in the beautiful natural landscape. Your use of language reflecting on the strength yet simplicity of mother nature and her creatures is a timely reminder of how we need to support each other and feel confident that we are safe if we are all heading in the right direction together .

  3. Dear Joan,

    Magical blog -really enjoyed reading it and felt like I was walking alongside you. I hold the intention that all staff feel able to make a contribution and are seen, heard and valued. In William Bridges and his suggestion of the three phases : ending, neutral zone and then new beginnings. May each and every one of us feel we have access to a new beginning -which might be around making different decisions, speaking up about something we feel is wrong and, like the geese, feel supported on our journey through clear and compassionate communication, resilient team -work and clear vision.

  4. Joan, this is such a fab piece of writing! You’ve really captured the essence of the transition from one place to another and all that occurs when so many people, departments, pressures and expectations are involved. I love the geese analogy, one of my favourites 🙂

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