Horses for extra courses
DERBY diocese has recently embarked on the last stage of selection for our next diocesan Bishop, and the Crown Nominations Commission has now begun its deliberations. I feel that it is a more anxious time for us than might have been expected, because of the recent selection processes that have not gone smoothly.
Those of us who had been following those events must fervently hope that our diocesan representatives have correctly discerned the needs of our diocese, and have remembered to state them explicitly, and not take for granted anything that seems obvious.
We already have a woman suffragan; I hope that no one sees this as a reason not to appoint a woman diocesan. (How many dioceses have a diocesan and a suffragan bishop who are both men?)
Of course, it is not only the diocese’s need that must be considered. Diocesan bishops have national responsibilities as well, and our soon-to-be-retired Bishop has done amazing work, both locally and nationally, in the field of people-trafficking and modern slavery.
It is not necessarily the new Bishop of Derby who should take on this work, but somebody must do it — and do it with equal passion and commitment. The CNC and the Archbishop need to consider this as well.
Work behind the scenes
I TEND to respond to the prospect of a meeting of the General Synod with the instincts of a old warhorse hearing the sound of the trumpet. The recent group of sessions in York seemed more remarkable for what was not on the agenda than what was. If I were still a member, I would have been feeling as frustrated as many of the current members evidently were.
I can only hope that the work for which reporters were not allowed to be present (the various seminars about the topics of the “teaching document”, as well as other subjects that may not feel so threatening) will lead to some progress on this thorny question, and that the Church may finally get somewhere also on the other nightmare issue — safeguarding.
I HAVE been rejoicing in all the commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Some of my earliest political memories are of my parents’ euphoria over the reforms of the Attlee government — the NHS and the welfare state in general — which, they felt, were bringing in a new social order based on Christian principles. I also recall their stunned incredulity and near-despair over the defeat of the government in 1951.
As the “reforms” of recent years have threatened to destroy the system, I can feel myself losing hope. But all is not lost yet. While I have been thinking about the NHS, I have been watching the Ambulance series on television. The amazing paramedics and call-handlers seem to me to embody all that is most precious about the service.
When an ambulance arrives in response to a call, the crew ask only two questions: “What is the problem?” and “What can we do to help?” The problem may have been caused by the patient’s drinking or drug-taking, brawling, dangerous driving, or commission of a crime; but recriminations have no place here, only the relief of a need.
Our own Community Visitor, the Bishop of Worcester, succinctly expressed what I had been struggling to find words for: “The NHS answers the question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’. The NHS is all of us looking after all of us.”
Nurturing body and soul
BESIDES watching and listening to the various commemorative programmes, I have found myself entering into the celebrations — and reminding myself of the justification for them — by unexpectedly spending a few days in hospital.
I was able to benefit from the resources, both human and technological, of a large modern hospital; and also to appreciate the difficulties under which the system is operating (trolleys double-parked for hours around the emergency waiting area).
The combined expertise available under the wonderful NHS quickly solved my problem (I will spare you the details), and in a few days I was home. A really good experience, then? Not altogether, because there was the food. . .
When the Royal Derby Hospital opened, eight years ago, the meals were superb. One of our Sisters who was due for discharge refused to go home until she had eaten her hospital salmon. But cost-cutting (“efficiency savings”) has taken its toll, and the meals are now not only far from appetising, but often barely edible.
This, as the Campaign for Better Hospital Food points out, is both short-sighted and self-defeating: however well they are treated medically, patients will not recover if they do not eat. We know it is possible for a state-of-the-art hospital to provide good meals — this one did it, once upon a time.
After a succession of failed initiatives, several of them spearheaded by other high-profile chefs, perhaps it is time for Jamie Oliver to mount a campaign to do for hospital food what he did for school food.