by Dr Julian Abel, Cornwall, UK
What is the collective noun for a group of palliative care consultants? A reflection, a chatter? Perhaps a mob? Or a dollop?
In fact, do you like ice-cream? Then read on. It is not often that we have the opportunity to sit down and discuss our working lives with each other, wherever we are and whatever we do. But that is what we did, one evening at the end of 2020. The Survival of the Kindest podcast Christmas Special 2020 features four palliative care enthusiasts. https://www.compassionate-communitiesuk.co.uk/podcast/christmas-special. Namely, Professor Max Watson, Dr Kathryn Mannix, Professor Mark Taubert, and myself, Dr Julian Abel. Or better still, Kathryn, Max, Mark and Julian. We are all members of the UK Royal College of General Practitioners End of Life Care Think Tank, brought together in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, to consider what could be helpful in managing the potential challenges for palliative and end of life care as a consequence of the pandemic. The group, chaired by Dr Adrian Tookman of Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead and Dr Catherine Millington Sanders (RCGP end of life care lead and Marie Curie GP lead), is widely representative, including charities and professionals alike.
We discovered that free flowing conversation can work really well in video consultations, even without a pot of tea that you might be able to pass around in real life face to face encounter. After the first rush of just finding our feet, we looked at how we might improve advance care planning by changing the emphasis to conversations that start with: ‘What matters most to you?’. This was on the background of us having co-developed the What Matters To Me Conversation Charter https://www.whatmattersconversations.org , which in turn was launched earlier in December 2020.
Part of the reason for being on the podcast was to discuss why changing advance care planning conversations is important to us and the people around us. Our conversation included the experience of delivering palliative care during the Covid-19 pandemic, advance care planning, why indeed we practice palliative care in the first place, and other things besides. Laughter and tears were part of it, and judging from the feedback we have had on Twitter, this induced similar emotions in our listeners. This festive time of year is perhaps in pandemic times more likely to be spent alone, and may prompt many to turn on the obscure podcast, or two. We all felt strongly that the disruption to normal human relationships, so important at the end of life, was hard for staff and for families/friends alike. (Mark asked me to pardon his French in the podcast, but I thought it sounded more like Anglo Saxon!)