Matt Morgan’s short piece in the BMJ this week “doctors’ messes are not just about food” talks about how a place where staff can meet, talk, eat, solve problems and socialise privately are a thing of the past.
He comments that non-public communal spaces of times gone by should not be seen as simply places where people ate “in reality, they contributed to the delivery of medicine: cross speciality working, with co-morbidities being balanced by teams across multi-disciplinary tribes.”
His article ends “I long for nuanced conversation in that lost space. Please can we bring it back?”
As a medical negligence practitioner specialising in complex injury and dealing with the aftermath of spinal injuries, cerebral palsy, and cases where families have lost loved ones I recognise that the current culture of “the land grab of modern hospital services” has had the effect of stripping away areas where collaboration and “nuanced medicine” can happen.
In a system where we are asking the NHS to deliver ever more complex solutions, whilst also demanding teamwork and reflective practice it seems to me that society must also demand a space for these things to happen. The benefits would be multiple: to identify just two, it would boost staff morale and encourage a holistic approach to patients (as Matt Morgan has identified). Both of these have a positive impact on patient safety which is, of course, the angle I came from.
Perhaps as we move into the next decade a more people centric NHS (by people I mean patients, medics, nurses and support staff) should be our New Year’s wish. One of the starting points on a wish list for that service could be the acknowledgement of the need for this area, a reinvention of this “lost space”.
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