The Pneumonia in Bed 5 by Sian Finlay

Although it is sometimes easy to forget it amongst the busyness of front line clinical duties, I am a person.  I suspect many of you are too.  Occasionally I am unwell, but I consistently find that I still remain a person during this period – I have never yet become a disease!  So why is it that when patients come into our care, we so often default to calling them by their diagnosis instead of their name?  Go onto any ward and I guarantee it will not be long before you hear someone described as ‘The Chest Pain’ or ‘The Pneumonia’.  Many handovers will include phrases such as ‘He’s a UTI’.

No, he isn’t! He’s a PERSON who has a UTI!

A common (and potentially even worse) variant of this is the ‘bed number’ name, exemplified by ‘Bed 3 needs the commode!’  Sometimes attempts are made to justify this practice with the excuse that it protects confidentiality, but let’s be honest here.  The truth is that it simply demands more mental effort to remember the patient’s name and we are taking a short cut.  All very understandable in a busy environment, and I really don’t blame anyone.  You might think it is just semantics anyway – what does it matter if we call someone ‘The GI bleeder’?  Well I argue that it does matter.   More than you think.  These patients are people, no less complex and emotional and fragile than you or me.  By depersonalising them, we are subtly starting down a path which allows us to forget this; which allows us to view them as tasks in our day rather than the individuals they are.  If you are unconvinced, try this little exercise; read these 2 sentences and see if they elicit the same emotional response in you:

Bed 5 is agitated.

Tommy is agitated.

Would you agree that the second sentence immediately makes us feel more empathy and compassion towards its subject?

Many people will be aware of the late Kate Granger, the inspirational doctor who responded to her diagnosis of terminal cancer by establishing the ‘Hello, my name is..’ campaign.  Sadly Kate died last year, but her campaign lives on and has touched many of us in the healthcare profession.  But Kate’s work didn’t begin and end with wearing a smiley badge with our name on it; it is in essence about remembering the humanity of our patients and treating them as fellow human beings.  And I can only imagine Kate’s fiery reaction if she ever overheard herself being referred to as ‘Bed 5’!!

But we are all under pressure.  What if we genuinely can’t remember the patient’s name and are just trying to communicate information quickly?  Surely that doesn’t make us uncaring?  Of course it doesn’t, but in times of acute amnesia, we could at least say ‘the man with pneumonia’ rather than ‘the pneumonia’.  And that should only be a holding measure until we can remember his actual name – surely essential for safe communication anyway!

I hope I have convinced you that words do matter.  The phrases we use set the whole tone for the level of kindness and empathy we expect in our clinical areas.  So if any of this resonates with you, I hope you will lead by example.  Look at your patients and remember they have hopes and fears and histories and personalities…and almost always names!!

Sian Finlay (aka ‘The Migraine on ward 7’) Acute Physician and Clinical Director for Medicine at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

 

 

Surviving and Thriving in a Time of Change by Dawn Allan

I have always been fascinated by human beings and why we are the way we are.

Does our cultural and family background influence us?

Why do some people believe in God and some don’t?

Why are some people able to talk about death and dying so easily?

Why do people focus on their weaknesses, what about their strengths?

How self aware are we?

Who are we when nobody is looking?

Having emigrated from Ayrshire to South Africa where I spent my childhood and early adult years, I discovered the down side of the school playground because I sounded different.  There were only so many times a 6 year old with an Ayrshire accent wanted to mandatory repeat the word ‘potato’ at the class bullies insistence, and then suffer his disparaging comments,

“…doesn’t she sound weird…say it [potato] again…oh, ja, you’re from ’SCOT-LAND’ hey…”!?!

I remember stifling back tears, wishing I sounded like my peers so he would leave me alone.  When I reflect on this childhood bullying memory, it is mainly laughable now and I quickly adapted by adopting a local accent to blend in.  Life nurtured resilience and I learned when it might be safe to confront a bully wisely, when to ignore them and when to ask for help.

This year I relocated from Shetland to live and work in a place, “Often described as “Scotland in Miniature,” South West Scotland’s Dumfries & Galloway region is characterised by its rich cultural heritage, stunning scenery, sweeping seascapes, towering cliffs, rolling agricultural land, and its wide, wild landscapes”.  Who wouldn’t want to live here?!?  So, what about the people?  I am pleased to say they too are fascinating, warm and welcoming.

The 2017 focus for NHS Dumfries & Galloway is the move for many staff from the current DGRI to the new hospital.  From what I am gathering, this process of change is daunting for some.  If communication is key to all that we offer and provide as health care professionals, part of the way we manage our expectations in preparing to move is to be aware of how we communicate with or about each other as individuals, departments and teams.  Having a person-centred approach should be our modus operandi – our behaviour and communication does not go un-noticed by patients and visitors.  Being a ‘relational person’, I believe our hospitality is as valuable as our clinical / social care, our administration skills or our financial targets.

If a holistic approach cares for the whole person, this includes acknowledging someone’s pain, providing them with pain relief and offering them a cup of tea – all spiritual ‘acts’.  We all deliver spiritual care, what I aim to define is that we as staff do not, ‘go Greek’ i.e. compartmentalise and separate a person into ‘bits’, i.e. age, gender, status, patient, service-user, client, spiritual, religious, physical, mental, psychological, emotional…When in physical pain, the whole of our being is affected.  Judeo-Christian views that –

  • every person is born with worth and dignity
  • every person has the ability to choose between doing good and doing wrong
  • every person has the responsibility to help others in need and the community

Whether the person we are caring for or working alongside has a belief / faith or not, they will have a ‘value system’.  I hope having a VBRP – Values Based Reflective Practice – approach will help all of us as we reflect and hopefully learn from the past in the present, to know how to continue or change best practice, including our communication.  Our motives are based on values we apply every day which will help or harm the people we care for, including ourselves.

To be a hopeful presence is how I sometimes describe my encounters with people.   When we are at our most fragile and vulnerable, we need others we can trust, who will listen with their eyes and ears, who can make us laugh, encourage us when we feel stressed, sick or lonely and offer compassion.  My confidential support includes staff – we are all at different stages in our professional roles and our personal lives.  Before anyone ever declares whether they have a belief / faith or not, it is what we have in common as human beings that is paramount.  Difference is a given, but negative overemphasis on difference marginalises people – companionship and inclusion build bridges.  Sometimes, ‘life happens’ and it is the sudden, unexpected occurrences that affect our health and relationships most.

One of my favourite authors C S Lewis reminds me that a man of such academic, creative gravitas was honestly transparent, he said, “I pray because I can’t help myself.  I pray because I’m helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping.  It doesn’t change God – it changes me.”

Rabbi Harold Kushner’s description speaks into my role, “When you cannot fix what is broken, you can help very profoundly by sitting down and helping someone cry.  A person who is suffering does not want explanation: the person wants consolation.  Not reasons, but reassurance.”

If we as individuals think we do not need each other, we are deluding ourselves.  My faith informs my professional practice, without imposing it on anyone.  If the Son of God relied on twelve disciples, who am I to say I can survive without the support and wise counsel of colleagues?  We are only human and we need each other to ensure NHS Dumfries & Galloway not only survives but thrives today and tomorrow.

Dawn Allan is Spiritual Care Lead Chaplain at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Can I make a difference? by Paul Gray

It’s a big question – can I make a difference?  How does it feel to ask yourself that?  For some of us, the answer will be different on different days.  My experience suggests that your answer depends much less on what you do, than it does on how you feel.  In this blog, I’d like to offer some thoughts on making a difference.

However, some context first.  I fully recognise the challenges we face.  Health budgets are going up – but pressures on recruitment, and the demands of an aging population, are also very real.  There is also still much to do in tackling inequalities, and improving the health of the population, which NHS Scotland can’t do on its own.  And we do know that people have the best outcomes when they are treated and cared for at home, or in a homely setting.  So our current models of care are transforming to meet these demands, and to provide the most appropriate care and treatment for people, when they need it, and change brings its own challenges.

So my first suggestion is to turn the question, “Can I make a difference?” into a statement – I can make a difference.  If you start from that standpoint, you’re much more likely to succeed.  It’s easy to become pre-occupied with the things we can’t change, and the barriers and problems – I know that I fall into that trap from time to time.  But wherever I go, I see people throughout the NHS, and in our partner organisations, making a difference every day.  So ask yourself, what is the one thing I can do today that would make a difference?  And then do it!

paul-1Now, give yourself some credit – think of an example where you did something that was appreciated.  Write it down and remember it.  If you’re having a team meeting, take time to share examples of things that the team did, that were appreciated by others.  Sharing these examples will give you a bank of ideas about simple things that matter to other people.  And it also gives you something to fall back on, if times are tough.

Next – think of an example when someone did something for you, which you appreciated.  Find a way to share these examples too – if it worked for you, it might work for someone else as well.  Ask yourself when you last thanked someone for something they did well, or something you appreciated.  It’s easier to go on making a difference if others notice what you’re doing!

If you’re leading or managing a team, ask yourself how much time the team spends discussing what went well.  It’s essential to be open and transparent about problems and adverse events, but if that’s the whole focus of team discussions, we overlook a huge pool of learning, resources and ideas from all the positive actions and outcomes.  And we risk an atmosphere where making a difference is only about fixing problems, rather than about improvement.  So, as yourself and your team, what proportion of time should be spent on what went well?

Remember to ask “What Matters to You?”.  I know that the focus of this question is on patients, and that’s right because they are our priority, but it’s a good question to ask our colleagues and our teams as well.  Just asking the question makes a difference – it gives you access to someone else’s thoughts and perspectives, and is likely to lead to better outcomes.

paul-2Will any of this change the world?  Not on its own, of course.  But you could change one person’s world, by a simple act of kindness, or listening, or a word of thanks.  You can make difference!

Paul Gray is the Chief Executive Officer for NHS Scotland and the Director General for Health and Social Care at the Scottish Government

I am human by Dawn Renfrew

“I am human: I think nothing human alien to me”

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Terence the African

So wrote Terence the African, around 2000 years ago. He was a slave from Roman Africa, a dramatist, and an interpreter. He was quoted recently in the annual BBC Radio 4 Reith lectures, by Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and law at New York University.

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Appiah Now

Professor Appiah’s subject, “Mistaken Identities”, is one of the most defining issues of our age. We all have multiple identities which describe who we are. These include those suggested by our gender, age, occupation, political affiliation, nationality, race etc. The possibilities are endless when you think about it: parent, child, sibling, friend, Bake-off fan, or Queen of the South fan are just a few.

In a healthcare setting, we also have many identities, including being part of our own discipline, team, ward or service. Sometimes we are ourselves patients, and some of us are managers. Any health condition, whether physical or mental, can become part of our identity.

Appiah himself embodies many complex aspects of identity. Half-British, half-Ghanaian, he was brought up in Ghana and England, and has now adopted America as his homeland. He is the grandson of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps. He is a crime novelist, and a fan of Japanese haiku. In addition, he was one of the first people to take advantage of the new gay marriage laws in New York State. He is probably ideally placed to set about unpicking assumptions which we all have about the “labels” associated with identity.

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Growing up in England

Appiah discusses 4 aspects of identity over 4 lectures: creed [religion], country [nationality], colour [race] and culture [Western identity vs non-Western]. These are delivered in 4 different locations: London, Glasgow, Accra [capital of Ghana] and New York. The lectures cover the great sweep of history, and examples from a range of countries across the globe. They argue that identities are more complex and fluid, than are commonly supposed. They are more a “narrative”, than an “essence”, and do not necessarily determine who we are. Everywhere you look, you can find exceptions in identities, which challenge our commonly-held assumptions about them.

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Growing up in Ghana

Identity is important for our survival. It helps give meaning to our lives, and helps us feel, and be, part of a community. Evolutionary psychologists would argue that it has been critical to our development as a species. All identities are constructed and evolve over time, but as soon as you construct an identity, you create potentially not only an “us” [those within the group], but also an “other” [those outside it]. When there is competition for resources, things can turn nasty, and the “others” may be persecuted or scapegoated. So it is important that we are relaxed and open about our identities, and that we recognise why that process of “othering” arises so easily within all of us. It’s a trap that is easy to fall into, and we need to resist it.

Appiah doesn’t mention healthcare in particular. But if we apply these ideas to the healthcare setting, we can see that a shared identity can help us pull together to meet our patient’s needs, in what are often increasingly challenging circumstances. Equally, there can be a process of “othering” which operates, whether it is towards our patients, our managers, our employees, or other agencies. Whilst understandable, “othering” can prevent us fully engaging with the “other” in a way that leads to the best outcome for all of us. This is relevant to our aims to provide person-centred care, and to integration with other agencies.

On the question of nationhood, Appiah isn’t against nationalism, so long as it is an “open, civic nationalism”. His favourite idea of nationhood, however, involves 2 concepts. The first is patriotism, defined as concern with the honour of your country [or countries]. This means feeling proud when your country does something good, and ashamed when it does something bad. The second concept is cosmopolitanism, which means being a citizen of the world. These can combine to form a “patriotic cosmopolitanism”. You can, and should, respect both “the local” and “the global”.

Identities connect the small scale, where we live our lives alongside our kith and kin [and healthcare colleagues], with larger movements, causes and concerns. Our lives must make sense at the largest of scales as well as at the smallest. We live in an era where our actions, both ideological and technological, have global effects. When it comes to the compass of our concern and compassion, humanity itself is not too broad a horizon. We live with 7 billion other humans, on a small, warming planet. The concept of cosmopolitanism has become a necessity.

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Appiah with Obama

Appiah argues for a tolerant, pluralistic, and diverse society. He says, failure to accept this is not just a failure to understand human identity, it is not in our collective self-interest. We do not need to abandon identities, but we don’t need to be divided by them either. Ultimately, the identity of “being human” ought to transcend all others.

As Scout, the young heroine in the novel about race and mental illness, To Kill a Mocking Bird, concludes: “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks”.

The Reith lectures are available to listen to on the Radio 4 website, indefinitely.

Dr Dawn Renfrew is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist for NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Oh Christmas Tree by Catherine Nesbitt

Throughout my childhood, every December we went to Newcastle to see my mother’s best friend, Paddy. Paddy’s Christmas extravaganza was the highlight of my year! First, the pantomime (we once stumbled across the cast in a side-street restaurant… It was a bizarre Newcastle1.jpgcombination of Linda Lusardi, Geoff Capes and Kenny Baker (at the time, Page-3 model, World’s Strongest Man and R2D2). From there, Fenwick’s Christmas Window (a MUST-SEE if you never have) and a local garden-centre decorated like Lapland but in Gosforth! Paddy bought armfuls of decorations there every year; my parents bought my sister and me one decoration each because they couldn’t afford more than that.

That was where I fell in love with the most beautiful Christmas tree I have ever seen; an 8ft tree with branches right to the floor. I begged to take it home with us, but no, our living room was too small.
Two years later when we moved to a house in Carlisle with 12ft ceilings, I asked again!
Again, it was denied; they just couldn’t afford a new tree.
The following year (aged 13) that 8ft tree was all I wanted for Christmas. Mum gave Dad one of “those looks” and the tree was mine; on the condition I decorated it from then on!

DEAL!

That tree and our growing collection of decorations were a perfect match and my sister and I have added decorations ourselves over the years. None of them match; there are no coordinated sets of baubles and no “theme”; some are cute, some are beautiful and some are downright bizarre!

decoration01A bear sitting on a drum and a little crate of toys marked ‘North Pole’ from our Christmas trips with Paddy (and a lovely Christmas reminder of her since she died in 2004). A clip-on peacock documents my lifelong affinity with them (‘peacock’ was my first word and aged 2, I tottered over to a particularly unfriendly one and still have a scar on my forehead for my troubles). A corduroy reindeer from when Starbucks first came to Newcastle, (my University flatmates and I agreed we would not set foot in Starbucks for the first time until it snowed to ensure the “full Starbucks experience” (i.e. as much like a movie-set in New York at Christmas as possible). But then it didn’t snow! One morning, with a few floaty snowflakes in the wind, we all ditched lectures to sit in Starbuck’s window, but the coffee machine had broken and the tables were piled high with dirty plates! It was so disappointing that we never went back but still chortle about it when we make our annual pilgrimage to see Fenwick’s window together!)

The hideous ones are mainly thanks to my sister. She worked in America as an aerospace engineer testing a new aircraft. Her first Christmas in California, the company produced commemorative decorations and she sent one home (an F35-Lightning-II in a wreath of flags) with the characteristically sarcastic message, “Because nothing says ‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all men’ quite like a 5th generation fighter aircraft!”
She later moved to Maryland and we road-tripped coast to coast collecting a haul of decorations en route: a sleigh bell from San Francisco, Santa in a reindeer rubber ring from San Diego, a “Get your kicks on Route 66” decoration from Arizona and a pottery camel made by the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico. On arriving in Maryland she sent home our most grotesque decoration: a crab-shell painted like Santa’s face!

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floodIn January 2005, only hours after taking the tree down, a flood hit Carlisle. We scooped the decorations up in a blanket and hauled them upstairs. My tree was lost, but the decorations survived. When the house was refurbished, I chose another tree which graced my parents’ living room for a decade, but only days after putting it up last year, a second flood hit Carlisle and that tree was lost too! As the water poured into their street, my parents stripped the tree of the decorations and saved them again. It sounds unlucky but earlier that year Dad decided to store the decorations in his workshop rather than back in the attic. If the tree had not been up when the flood hit, the decorations would’ve all been lost too. They are all the more precious now having survived when everything else did not.

Our tree represents our family history; where we’ve been, what we’ve done and the friends we’ve had. My parents’ frugality produced an extraordinary collection that I would totally recommend gathering for yourself. My mother even uses it to store sentimental things which have no obvious place to live. Since retiring from Nursing, she volunteers in a school and when one little girl recently left, she thanked Mum by giving her a necklace with a big elephant pendant. As Mum doesn’t wear necklaces she wasn’t sure what to do with this little gift, but exchanging the chain with a ribbon solved the problem. This year the elephant has been added to the tree.

treeCheap or expensive, ugly or beautiful, they all have a place. The collection has become an heirloom in our family and one day my sister and I will divide them between us to keep the memories alive…. She can definitely have the crab!

Dr Catherine Nesbitt is a Clinical Psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology Service at NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

There is no truth, only Perception by Emma Murphy

I recently started as the new Patient Feedback Manager for NHS Dumfries and Galloway. Just as I was settling in to my new role, life popped a little bump in the road and I found myself rushing through the doors of A&E one Friday morning with my poorly toddler. After a number of tests and assessments we found ourselves on Ward 15 for the weekend. I’m usually a reasonably laid back parent and when the kids get unwell, I generally believe in ‘keeping it til it gets better’, but watching my baby girl lie listless in my arms stirred up something almost primal in me. I needed to protect her and I needed to do whatever I could to get her better. Of course, this was paired with the realisation that I alone couldn’t fix this and that we were almost entirely reliant on the doctors and nurses. So there I was, anxious, frustrated, frightened and feeling more than a little helpless. Feelings I am sure many of you have experienced in similar situations.
Later that weekend, as things began to calm, I took some time to reflect. Whilst the treatment we were receiving was of course important, the key thing that was making our experience so positive was the kindness; the gentle tones, the sweet smiles directed at my daughter, the hand placed on my shoulder when I was particularly worried and most of all, the fact that those looking after us genuinely cared. I thought about how I had felt when I first arrived at A&E and how determined I was to ensure that my daughter received urgent help. I imagined how I would have felt if the care had been different. What if the kindness hadn’t been there? What if I was dismissed as an over anxious mother? What if somehow they missed something or didn’t give us the right treatment?
I can see how any one of those scenarios could occur and after many years working in the public sector I can also understand how sometimes, there are justifiable reasons for such. As patients and family members we often don’t know what the doctors and nurses are facing. It’s difficult to fully comprehend the overwhelming task they face each and every day with limited resources, conflicting demands and huge, often unpredictable, pressures. We must remember too that they are juggling all of this alongside their own lives, challenges and all. Whilst sitting here on the other side of this experience it is easy for me to apply that logic and understanding, it would however have been very different had any of those things happened when I was actually in that moment, dealing with those big emotions.
image2-2It can be thoroughly unpleasant when someone complains about you. Even more so if you feel that it is unfair or unjustified. We must appreciate however that it is often about perception. The view from every angle is slightly different. We must too remember that nothing occurs in isolation. Just as a complainant may not know what you are facing that day, you may not know their story. Someone once told me that people shout because they feel they are not being listened to. The anger we sometimes see from complainants often stems from fear or frustration. The same emotions that can make us defensive or even dismissive, when we are on the receiving end of that anger. If we approach complaints from a position of empathy and with a genuine desire to learn and improve, we will go a long way towards reaching more positive resolutions.
Until recently, different parts of the public sector had different approaches to dealing with complaints. This meant that patients, service users and customers were facing challenges negotiating the different procedures which, on top of an existing complaint, often escalated their frustration. Staff were also unclear about how to deal with complaints which led to a further variety of approaches. This issue was identified by the Scottish Government a number of years ago and as a result they have been working towards a standardised approach to complaints handling across the public sector in Scotland. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) has led on this work, already delivering a model Complaints Handling Procedure to local authorities which they implemented in 2013. They are now working with the NHS to help us to implement a very similar procedure from 1 April 2017 and it is a key part of my role to support NHS Dumfries and Galloway with that task.
image3.pngI know my NHS colleagues care deeply about their patients and the experience they have during their time with us. It is however a little more challenging to try to ignite that same passion about legislation, process and statutory timescales. We all know they are crucially important, but colleagues generally just want to get on with the job they are here to do, which is caring for people. It’s my job to help them understand that these changes will make everyone’s lives a little easier. It will ensure we have a clear procedure and a consistent approach to dealing with complaints. It will also ensure that we are offering the best support we can to those that wish to provide us with their feedback. This will help them to tell us their story and will better assist us in our quest to deliver the best possible care to those in need. Something we are all committed to.

You can learn more about the national changes to complaints handling here – http://www.valuingcomplaints.org.uk
To tell us your story about the care you have received, please contact Patient Services by phone on 01387 272 733 by email at dumf-uhb.PatientServices@nhs.net or by visiting the national Patient Opinion website at http://www.patientopinion.org.uk/

Emma Murphy is the Patient Feedback Manager at NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

“Ae Fond Adieu” by Alwayn Leacock

Recently the NHS Trust of Dumfries and Galloway saw the departure of its greatest ambassador ever.

When I first arrived in Dumfries in August 2000 I thought I was going to the end of the earth. I had driven through fields of greenery and seen more sheep, cows and land than my native country.   I was briefed on arrival by Colin Rodin and Fiona Patterson to report to Mrs Mcvittie the residences officer. Having lived in several NHS residences in England I was already in fear of the staunch matriarchal and regimented residences officers who were very territorial   and authoritarian and had very little conversation with anyone.  I shuddered once more at the thought that I was going to be housed in a military barrack and be greeted by yet another person of the same making who gave me the impression that they were merely facilitating my refuge in this country and that I ought to be on my best behavior and conform to UK norms and standards.

The Tobago keys a UN declared Marine Park just south of Mustique in the Archipelago state of St.Vincent and the Grenadines

The Tobago keys a UN declared Marine Park just south of Mustique in the Archipelago state of St.Vincent and the Grenadines

When I met Mrs Mcvittie for the first time that fear and reservation vanished immediately. Behind the desk sat a lady with a most welcoming smile. She greeted me in a most alluring and delightful way and informed me that she had already met my  country fellow Dr Camille Nicholls  who was another “cold tatty” like myself. Camille had to be provided with extra blankets to survive her winters. Her first concern then was whether I was managing in the cold. I could not be compared with Camille Nicholls, because apart from being an excellent physician, she was a   stunning five foot eight   beauty who made heads turn when she walked into a room.  All the men held their breath to the point of collapse not wishing to exhibit their customary abdominal protuberance.   She enquired about Camille’s’ well being.  From her conversation I could sense that she had a very good rapport with Camille as she appeared well versed about the geography of    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, its  pristine  volcanic  black sand beaches,  the turquoise  blue Caribbean waters ideal for sailing and the splendid  golden sands   on which  Kiera Knightly was marooned with Johnny Depp on the Tobago keys in that ever so famous scene form  pirates of the Caribbean.

Mrs.  Mcvittie possesses a radiant personality which placed one immediately at ease and made a very cold September very warm. After I moved into the house at C3 Mayfield terrace there were several calls to find out if I was comfortable enough and if the accommodations had fallen short of anything I wished.   I had no complaints the residences despite not being plush and ultramodern were very clean and some of the best kept and habitable ones that I had lived in thus far in the UK.    I had very little need for further embellishments. The psychological and the emotional support and welcoming embrace made one forget about any adversity if there was any.  As a non EU resident as MTAS and the EWTD took effect   I went from being employable to non employable. Locum trainee to non trainee and therefore was set adrift. One day I was working in Dumfries doing a locum replacement for Heather Currie and the next day I had no job and could not be given a job. Over the subsequent years my sojourn took me to many hospitals and regions of the UK looking for work.   Strange but true despite having an excellent command of English and having worked in the system for your years I was no longer required. I almost fell victim to the massive Exodus of trained non European doctors who had to leave the NHS and the UK. I did eventually leave for a brief period and then was given employment in England when the job advertised for on several occasions was not taken up by a European. That short respite allowed me to gain indefinite leave to remain in the UK. My next step was to wind my way back to Dumfries and guess who was there to greet me as a prodigal son or sheep that had been lost?  The delightful Mrs. Mcvittie.

I was welcomed like a long lost friend who had returned home once more and the feeling was reciprocal  amongst the affable Scots. Mrs. Mcvittie is the “hands on” type of boss who looked after everyone and made sure they were well. If you infringed the residency rules you received a little note placed under the door asking you in a rather polite and diplomatic way to conform and be considerate to others. When you looked through the windows in the early morning you could see her approaching and before going to her office she would set about doing little errands around the compound. She was never afraid to muck in and get her hands dirty.  She was an ambassador extra ordinaire I am yet to meet anyone in her capacity that can fit in to her shoes. She it was that gave the trust in Dumfries a face and a persona that foreign doctors like me could hold on to as being welcomed and appreciated. I was delighted to nominate her for the excellence award a few years ago and was rather disappointed that her work and that of her staff were not recognised as being equally important to the function of the NHS as a heart bypass surgeon. I was devastated that she did not get that  award and even more so that someone revealed to her that I had nominated her and so my secret was blown and I embarrassingly and to admit to her rather coyly  that she was doing a herculean job that few could manage equally as well.

So it was that with much sadness and personal grief that I attended her small farewell gathering at the Margaret Barty room. I thought many more would have been there to give her the fond farewell she deserved.  I sincerely hope we can use her as an occasional resource person in teaching hands on human relations for which she has a natural knack.  I wish her well in her retirement and hope that she will be around for many years to come. She is a truly remarkable daughter of the soil of Dumfries.

 

Dr Alwayn Leacock is a Specialty Doctor Obstetrics and Gynaecology at NHS Dumfries and Galloway