This is an important book. It has profound things to say about the need for human connection and kindness in the healing of people's bodies and minds, and it has profound things to say about the multi-faceted danger of institutional anonymity and alienation. The beauty of this book is that it is accessible on so many levels: as a genuinely interesting discussion of the history of the NHS and Britain's ever changing health policies; as an insight into the deep motivation, and nobility even, of people who commit their lives to tending the sick, from providing the most basic personal care to solving the most complex medical problems; and, most fascinatingly, as an essay on the nature of kindness, and the power of its practical application in the day-to-day real experiences of patients, wherever they are on the receiving end of health care. Compassion and kindness are central to the wisdom of Buddhism. According to the Dalai Lama compassion is " a mental attitude based on the wish for others to be free of their suffering and is associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility, and respect towards others.' What this book illustrates beautifully, and with compassion, is what can go wrong when a sense of commitment, responsibility and respect gets stifled, or strangled, by a system which privileges systems, structures, and unintelligent accountability above a sense of common humanity. This book also speaks to other areas of the public sector, particularly education. As the Headteacher of a challenging urban secondary school, who believes in the concept of leadership as service, I found much which resonated with my own core values and much which usefully articulated what I have been trying to do intuitively for the past ten years. However the book also present an undisguised challenge to all of us to meet the tough demands of intelligent kindness.
Penny Campling recently retired from full time work with the National Health Service, having devoted the last 20 years of her life as a consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist, undoubtedly practising the kind of intelligent kindness she advocates in this book. In addition to the many patients who will have benefited deeply from her wise leadership of her service, this is a fine legacy to have left future practitioners and policy makers.
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