Tom Downs - An Introduction to my Blog (Part 1)

I got a phone call today from Siôn Charles at the Bevan Commission (as my bleep was going off from the surgical ward!). We spoke about complexity theory (I had heard about this but had no idea what it was and still need to watch this) and change in systems like the NHS, he asked if I could make a blog relating to my experiences working as a Bevan Exemplar and also working as a junior doctor on the “frontline” of the NHS in Wales… so I hope this might be helpful as we track narratives unravelling at this time.

I am a Foundation Year 1 Doctor (meaning I am in my first year of work as a newly qualified doctor).  I work on general surgery in North Wales at a friendly small district general hospital, Ysbyty Gwynedd – it is in reach of the now closed Snowdonia National Park.

I have been working with the Bevan Commission for the last 6 months. The Bevan Commission is named after that nice Welshman Aneurin Bevan who founded our NHS.  The Bevan Commission draws upon international experts and builds on Bevan’s founding principles, with the aim to improve services, health, and care.  The Bevan Commission empowers individuals like me as Bevan Exemplars to transform our NHS so it can be more sustainable.

For the last 6 months I have been looking specifically at how we can make connections to improve the environmental sustainability at our hospital.  I think we we’re all becoming much more aware of climate change and deep rooted ecological problems like plastic pollution were affecting our health and the health of the planet. This was thanks to individuals like Greta Thunberg and groups like Extinction Rebellion, I myself am a member of Doctors for Extinction Rebellion.  But now, our eyes have all turned to this global Covid19 pandemic we are all facing together.

Change within the NHS has been a focus of the last 6 months for me but also in the last few weeks change has been happening very quickly, some things good, some things bad (Environmental sustainability has now shifted to frustrations relating to Personal Protective Equipment).

The last few weeks have been difficult for a lot of us. We have all had to quickly adapt our lives (some more than others) and now unknowingly or knowingly the health of others is a central part of our daily decision making, not just doctors working in hospital, but all key workers and those staying at home to keep others safe – I feel hopeful we can keep this attitude coming out of this crisis and going forward.

Despite the last few weeks being in turmoil, I, like others who are usually very busy, (as the Queen said earlier this month) am getting the opportunity to pause, reflect, meditate or pray. Although physically distanced with about a third of the globe now in lockdown, thanks to technology, today we can still feel socially connected to our communities and to others across the globe.

The reality of this crisis was brought home recently when we heard our Prime Minister had been transferred to an intensive care unit.  Having since been discharged to recover, he and his family and the others affected by this crisis remain in our thoughts.

Although we are told we are heroes in the hospital, I feel we are the lucky ones with stable jobs that give us the opportunity to care for others. I hope that this blog (if I manage to keep it going) of brief reflections of some of the things happening here at Ysbyty Gwynedd and some of the projects I am involved in may be interesting for some.  Hopefully, it will be relatable and provide learning for me and those interested as we try to keep track of some of the narratives and stories unravelling out of this crisis. My blog may even help make some of the connections between the corona crisis and the climate crisis.

Stay home (if you can) and stay safe, 

Dr Tom Downs


Sunset over Snowdonia National Park. Credit :Dr Simeon Head

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