I don’t know about you, but this time of year I start feeling a little uneasy. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I just don’t feel all that romantic! I feel disloyal saying that given I grew up in the love-drizzled world of Grand Opera, spent years as a professional serenader and actually met my wife singing under her window. Maybe it’s the February cold. Or maybe it’s waking up to a litany of bad news on the Today Programme. Yesterday morning the NHS was being hauled over the coals for callous neglect and unneccessary suffering in Stafford. And yet…
A few hours later, I was visiting a friend who is making a spectacular recovery in the hands of the amazing team at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. Everywhere I look there are staff doing everything they can to help the patients cope and mend. It’s care, but more than that. I’d never thought about it before but the NHS doesn’t run on funding, it runs – on love. Not the romantic kind, but the “agape” of the ancient Greeks. The oath invented by Hippocrates and which modern medics still swear to has at its heart the wonderfully simple phrase: “I will keep (the sick) from harm and injustice.”
To me that says more about love than any Hallmark card. This kind of love is rarely celebrated with red roses. It gets pushed to the side by the headlines and the politicising. Until we get sick. Or our loved ones do.
Stafford was inexcusable. But the headlines suggest there’s a culture of negligence throughout the NHS. That’s not what I saw yesterday. So, NHS. If you happen to be feeling unloved, this is me blowing you a kiss, sending you a hug and saying a heartfelt thank you.
Which unloved organisation do you think deserves a bit of recognition? Let me know and the best answer gets two free tickets to Songs from the Heart, the improvised opera show my company Impropera is performing at Kings Place, London N1 next Thursday on Valentine’s night. It promises to be smooochy!