30 September 2020

Unlike my mother, who never told anyone how old she was  - and who would rather pay full fare on the bus, than dig out her Greater Manchester Transport over-60s bus pass from among the tissues and rain hoods in her bag in front of me -  I don’t make a secret of my age. So, dear colleagues, Joy Division has been my soundtrack to this week. The same powerful sounds that accompanied my inchoate teenage mewlings about the absolute state of it all under the Thatcher government invoke many of the same feelings of rage and helplessness. “Confusion in her eyes that says it all. She's lost control”1.

Last night, I was at dinner with my lab, seated outside on two tables, separated literally by a street. We meet each other regularly (but safely) during the working day-because we now have all been strongly encouraged to return to normal work patterns  - but we were strictly instructed by the restaurant that we would be removed from the outside seating if our two separate tables demonstrated that we were in contact with each other in any way, even by waving. Understandable, but illogical. Such is the garbled nonsense that currently passes for public health advice both nationally and internationally, that no one is clear any longer what constitutes safe or appropriate behaviour. Contrasting the anti-masker protesters, the COVID deniers, the “respect my right to get COVID-ers” and the "how dare you throw me out of the pub at 10pm-ers" with the stark reinforcement from my hospital today of the need for all patients to attend alone for their cancer treatments, has heightened an increasing sense of alienation. Does anyone even care about anyone else anymore?

My mother used to regularly inform me, when she was about the age I am now “Ee, I feel a hundred years old”. Back then, maybe it was simply my fault that Mrs F. had prematurely achieved centenarian status. But here, the whole world feels upended and I also feel old. I feel the heartbreak of prolonged separation from colleagues, friends and loved ones outside the UK. “Where will it end? Where will it end?”2

I have pulled myself together this morning. I have a job to do, at work, as well as for the BSH. There are two positive things I want to draw your attention to. First, the BSH will host a BSH virtual 2020 meeting in November, organised by the amazing Tamara Everington in conjunction with Lorenza Gianella, the BSH Education lead. We are delighted that both EHA and ASH are supporting the virtual meeting in co-badged, joint sessions. Importantly for us all, the sessions will be arranged outside core working hours, to enable you to dip in and out, if you are not in a position to take study leave. The whole meeting has been accredited for 33 CPD points, tracked to the sessions in which you actually participate. We will have an excellent virtual platform which will not make you feel quite as estranged from reality as I did when teaching 27 audio and visually muted “iPhone’s” by Zoom last week!

Second, our survey is about to come out. I really want to hear from you and so do the whole BSH team. To go about supporting you, we really need to understand what your challenges are, especially around COVID, and to understand your views. The BSH has been understandably cautious in its approach to advocacy, but we are increasingly being asked to contribute to responses that the Royal Colleges make to government consultations, sometimes with little notice. It is vital that the BSH is your voice and not just that of its leadership, please tell me what you want us to say on your behalf, especially on how COVID is impacting your practice, and we will do our best.


  1. Joy Division, She’s Lost Control, Unknown Pleasures, 1979, Factory Records
  2. Joy Division, Day of the Lords, Unknown Pleasures, 1979, Factory Records