All’s wool that ends wool

Dr Matthew Doré is the Chair of the Palliative Care Congress 22/23 for the Association of Palliative Medicine for Great Britain and Ireland, which by shear good fortune, this year ran concurrently with the UK Alpaca Conference! He is also a Consultant in Palliative Medicine in Northern Ireland, enjoys his new warm alpaca socks and supports Hull City. I named my twitter a long time ago – @bathmatt


My reflection from the Palliative Care Congress in Telford, which would you believe is from a week ago today, is summed up in the single word – ‘hope’ … (and ‘alpacas’ but let us concentrate on the former).

The feeling that despite all, the difficulties with the NHS, the turmoil of the economy, the desperation of the war in Ukraine, the environmental emergency, and the Covid healthcare crisis, there is a sense of a hopeful future.

And I agree there is.

This feeling rose spontaneously out of the conference, I believe predominantly formed by us meeting in person, noticing how tall (or short) each of us are in real life, finding conversation isn’t stilted in real life, realising we had a shared story over the last few years.

We realised with Professor Mona Siddiqui that sometimes it is the struggles in life that makes us realise we are alive. Indeed, maybe we are experiencing what our patients often experience, the trauma of uncertainty in a world gone wrong.

I don’t pretend to be wise about how to deal with this feeling, so I look at our patients who have. Our patients tell me its ok to be tired, fed up, even fearful of the future. However, they often approach it with a surprising degree of optimism as they find, despite the limitations being placed upon them, they can create a path, reclaim their purpose and dare I say, enjoy life.

They commonly tell me one more bad thing in this world does not take away the many good things.

All the members of the panel gave a hopeful view of the future, I think maybe they even surprised themselves a wee bit being so bright about the future.

I see palliative care as a beacon of this hope. A lighthouse. With everything else in crisis, we will always look after those in need, give sensible and compassionate advice and care.

There is simply too much spirit, ingenuity, and humanity being shown by you and our wider colleagues to be thwarted. We are seen locally as examples, nationally to follow, and internationally as a deeply compassionate country to emulate.

Palliative care is looked to as a leader in compassion. With this spotlight we have an great responsibility to uphold.

Dr Kathryn Mannix summed it up perfectly, with her analogy of her conversational dance. That communication is like a dance, with two partners, listening and feeling the flow. To take liberty on extending (and destroying – sorry) the analogy… take our clumsy, double left footed partner is the NHS. Can we dance gracefully with her? Can we guide her a little bit? Can we smile despite it all? Watch us boogie.

I’m hopeful we can.


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