Opinion

Heartwarming sentiments for the NHS

Poem posted in a hospital lobby has an inspiring message, writes Bríd Hehir

One day in March every year is designated NHS Change Day, when thousands of people in and outside the NHS make a pledge to improve the care given to patients.

Examples abound of positive steps that staff take, from introducing themselves by name, to holding a clothes sale (with proceeds being invested in patient care) and creating a ‘Harlem shake’ video to break down barriers between patients and staff.

On NHS Change Day in 2014, the chair of Derriford Hospital in Plymouth did something unique. Richard Crompton enlisted the support of the city’s first poet laureate, Mike Sullivan, aka Sullivan the Poet, to write a poem that would ‘say something which truly befits such a wonderful organisation, so important to the life of this great city and its people’.

Mr Sullivan jumped at the chance and the sentiments expressed reflect the debt of gratitude he feels he owes the hospital for the care family members have received there. And ‘the fact 2014 was the centenary of the outbreak of the 1st World War was never far from my mind while I was writing it’, he said.

The poem will be exhibited permanently in the hospital’s lobby. I think it is a great mission statement; it surpasses any I have ever read and so deserves a wider audience. Maybe other NHS organisations could adopt it too. Enjoy.

‘Bring us your Sick..’

Bring us your sick, your fevered, your fragile,
and we will soothe them and keep them safe,
as if they were, each and every, our very own;
Bring your shattered limbs and ragged bodies,
your splintered heads and your broken hearts,
and we will give our all to make them whole;
Carry here to us the burned and the bleeding,
the mangled, the mutilated and the maimed,
and we will staunch and bind up their wounds.

Bear up to us your precious and brittle young,
your feeble, world worn and bone weary old,
and we will comfort them and care for them;
Fools and felons too, are as one in this place,
no care to what the cause or the consequence,
fault or failing shall not be our concern here;
Cry out in the black and suffocating darkness,
cry out to us here in your pain and your terror,
and we will hear you and bring you safely in.

Even in your blackest hour, ailing and fearful,
our welcome light will shine ever brightly out,
out, out into the ebony blackness like a beacon;
An electric flame; a neon candle; To guide you,
and we will be waiting, steadfast and resolute,
for this house’s doors will never stand closed;
This proud city’s hospitals have tended those
in need both in peacetime and in dreadful war,
know we shall neither falter nor fail you now...

We stubborn few shall suffer man nor beast,
fire or flood, plague or pandemic, to bar entry
this gentle sanctuary, to a single needy soul!
So pardon our faults; our laughter, our levity,
our black and sometimes insensitive humour,
it is how we deal with our own dark moments.
The laughter that sings, oft and loudly, in this
blessed place is ever shared, its song comforts
and is always with you – never, never, at you.

For we are only human too, just ordinary folk,
with friends and families, hopes and dreams,
woven each through otherwise everyday lives;
We also know the hurts of life, the anguished
helplessness of our own in illness and in pain,
we too know the insufferable agonies of loss!
No miracle workers labour here, no magicians,
only ordinary and unremarkable folk, striving
to do this extraordinary and remarkable work.

These interminable corridors, fragranced with
the musky colognes of cabbage and handwash,
are not dark catacombs of disease and distress;
No! They are passages in time, glassed portals
pavoired with hope and humanity and humility,
arteries in this living cathedral to compassion;
Where life is won in the face of overwhelming
odds; Man’s humanity to man is our hymn and
our prayers ever in the doing - not the wishing!

© Sullivan the Poet 2014

Brid HehirAbout the author

Bríd Hehir is a fundraising manager for the Do Good Charity, which sponsors nurse training and education in Africa. She worked in the NHS until 2011 as a nurse, midwife and specialist heath visitor, and latterly a senior manager. She is a regular contributor to spiked and is a Battle of Ideas committee member.

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