Climate Change and the NHS

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From Climate Scepticism


Towards the end of October there was a titanic football clash, not between international teams ahead of the World Cup, but on my lawn : a contest between my one-year old Scottie Dog (= Scout) and yours truly.

Scout has an ability to block my superb passing shots, so more and more effect had to be exerted to achieve dominance. I was determined to get my my own way and so kicked the ball as hard as I could, trying distraction techniques at the same time. Next moment I was horizontal in the air and crashed to the ground. An unmitigated canine foul.

I found I couldn’t move and eventually was carted off to hospital where an X-ray revealed I had broken the head of my femur within my hipbone. (On the World Cup final match I saw the Argentinian Messi taking an exact same fall – not involving a Scottie dog but some rude Frenchman – and he got up with nary a scratch).

Eventually I was moved to a 7-bed ward (originally 6 bed ward, but you know how things are in the NHS now) of over-70 years old men, all of us apparently waiting for beds to be made available in small local hospitals where our recovery could be aided by more concentrated physiotherapist care. So we were bed-blockers of the first cru. Some of the inhabitants had been waiting months, with no prospect of release. I joined the clan of the damned.

I therefore determined to exercise my mind by discovering the degree to which climate change had infiltrated that tiny bit of the NHS. I asked my companions what they knew about climate change, and apart from from some vituperous comments expressed without thought, they had nothing to contribute. Of the 15 non-dementia patients who occupied the ward while I was there, all but two were loud-mouthed misogynists shouting their displeasure at young nurses and nurse assistants trying to do their best for their patients.

This second grouping ranged from senior nurses to the most junior of nurse assistants. They didn’t want to discuss climate change either (other than my history teaching at the university). To be honest, I don’t think they had much time to discuss anything other than what they were doing. At times they were literally worked off their feet or having to concentrate so hard on what they were doing. “She who must be listened to” on one visit commented that I was experiencing the best and the worst of humanity in that ward.

Doctors always appeared in pairs or clusters, festooned with stethoscopes (never seen in action). I never got a chance to ask them about climate change but I knew they knew the answers. They had time to speculate.

So during my stay I found no one to make any comment about any aspect of climate change – people were either completely uninterested or much too busy. Were my observations typical of the wider NHS within the hospital?

Well, from our ward we could hear the residents of about five other nearby wards (female, younger patients) and there was much resemblance.

When being transported for tests in other parts of the hospital it was possible to observe other patients (commonly protesting) or motivated nursing staff. So perhaps my limited exposure was not that atypical.

Since returning home I have thought about these matters more widely. Perhaps many people don’t speak up or even think about climate change and other issues simply because there is little room in their lives for issues that have no immediate impact upon them.

They don’t deny its existence but today for them it has little relevance. Essentially they are ignoring it. If this is true, then it is amazing. The amount of information and messaging aimed at them sweeps over them without impact.

For those pushing action on climate change this potentially huge grouping of people is considered broadly supportive, but that might not be correct.

My Scottie has learned nothing. Despite my still requiring a metal frame to get around, Scout still brings her battered football for me to get past her formidable defensive skills. I’ll probably wait for the cricket season.