Dear Diary by Morton Warner, Emeritus Professor

Introduction by Marcus Longley, Director of WIHSC and Professor of Applied Health Policy

This week’s blog, the seventh in our ‘20 blogs for 20 years’ is by the man who started the whole thing off 20 years ago – Professor Morton Warner.  Morton was WIHSC’s first Director, and he and I moved across from the NHS in 1995 to set up the Institute at the invitation of Adrian Webb, then Vice Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan.  In this blog, Morton draws on classical sculpture and Victorian engineering to describe the future of health and social care in Wales…


Dear Diary

Saturday, July 2015, 11am: To the British Museum for `Defining Beauty: the Body in Ancient Greece`.  Not my top choice, I must admit, but how wrong! Had read The Times Review – “These bodies have an odd ability to act like some sort of mythical mirror that reflects back a culture`s own inner self”.  Typical vacuous nonsense.  And the curatorial blurb was no better – “They invented the idea of the human body as a vehicle of intelligent mind and object of beauty”.  By midday I was hooked: all those superbly crafted figures just did it – chunks of marble and alabaster chiselled such that  beauty  was intrinsic, embodied.  Objects able to represent the predominant thinking of the time.

Saturday, 4th July 2015, 3pm: To the London Museum of Water and Steam at Kew.  No idea what to expect, but it filled in the time until dinner.  Reflection – I`ve become a culture vulture!  By 3.10 I was in awe: cavernous chambers fit for an emperor`s tomb; water pumps even bigger than Anish Kapoor sculptures, certainly more understandable;  and brickwork patterning inside and out equal to the V&A.  But more – building on the legacy of John Snow and his Broad Street Pump, the Victorian engineers set out to care for the nation (and its main economic resource, the workforce, which would not have passed them by).  Embodied beauty, Victorian style.

Note to self: the many private sector companies originally involved were not up to the task of developing a coordinated population approach across London.  Water and sewage treatment provision had to be nationalised to get that!

Wednesday, 29th July 2015: Breakfasted early today listening to the Today Programme.  It provided a relief from my disturbed slumbers as I wrestled with whether the NHS of the 21st century could be an outstanding example of national embodied beauty with the dominant ideological forces at play since the mid-nineties.  Repeated assurances of `free at the point of access` are no longer enough when planned conflict (oops, competition!) seems to rule the day.  The 20th century embodiment choice had been easier: combine the 1911 Health Insurance Act and the inception of the NHS in 1948 and there you have it.

Then, through the fog of a Jim Naughty interview with a NICE doctor on why the palliative care Liverpool Pathway is to be relegated to the tick box of history, there was a gem gleaming, albeit one that still remained to be further polished.  Science in medical practice makes us live longer, he said. The Art of practice is to help us live more comfortably.  To this, it seems to me, we need to add pro tem `Support` of the type that cocoons the sick or disabled person and those who look after them. This is where the social services and voluntary sector come in. There we have it in a nutshell!

Thursday, 30th July 2015: Woke early. Still have the nutshell, but there is no kernel.  16.20 hrs, as I write this, it comes to me.  I`m slowing up! It is the notion of `Care` that wraps around SAS, and which must be integral within each element.  The intent to care mutually for one another will bring rewards for all, both to those giving and those receiving help.  My 20/20 vision: An NHS where Care is the guiding moral imperative.  Looking back from 2050 I hope an observer would then be able to describe a Caring NHS as an embodied beauty.

Morton Warner, Emeritus Professor, 71 and a quarter (and ever hopeful) 

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