In this committed and compassionate book, Phil Hammond – a doctor, journalist, campaigner and patient – argues for a bidet revolution in the NHS – from the bottom up, with patients leading the charge. What we can do for ourselves to live well often far outweighs what modern medicine and the NHS can do for us. And when we do need to use the NHS, getting involved, speaking up and sharing our expertise can improve not just our care, but the care of others. We won’t always succeed, but we can learn from failure as we try to get the best care possible in our precious and precarious health service.
Dr Phil shares his own experiences of working in and investigating the NHS for 30 years, and combines it with the experiences and tactics of inspirational patients and carers, some of who have survived and thrived in the NHS, some who are planning a gentle death at home and some who have suffered greatly but are determined to improve the NHS so others don’t have to suffer.
- The NHS is facing a crisis in care and a £30 billion black hole in its finances over 5 years. Politicians can’t fix it, but patients can.
- Of the things that can be changed to improve our health, 70% depend on the way we live, 30% depend on the right healthcare. Most lives need living, not medicalising.
- Getting the right care, right first time, improves both your life and the NHS for others – and patients can help to get it.
- An invaluable book for people who use and work in the NHS, and those who want to get by without it.
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“This is a fantastic book about how to live well. Phil Hammond’s goes beyond the usual tips about diet and exercise – we hear about the power of positive thinking, as well as how to get the best out of the health service. And this book is packed with real stories – from people who have become survival experts through their own experiences. Their stories are heartwarming, enlightening and useful.
Phil Hammond has a knack of being brutally honest and very funny at the same time. This is quite simply the most useful book about health and the health service that I’ve ever read.”
Professor Alice Roberts – Anatomist, author & broadcaster, Professor of Public Engagement in Science, University of Birmingham
“Phil’s words are informative, always honest and insightful. He gives us salutary lessons in what to look for, what levels of care we should expect, and are entitled to, how the NHS should work, and what to do if it’s not working for you. But perhaps the real strength in this book is the way he lets other people tell their stories. Whenever a patient’s experience can illustrate his point, there is one. Often there are a few. Towards the end of the book there are several that will uplift you, empower you, and one in particular that will break your heart. Phil is not one to shy away from NHS failure; he wants us to know what to look out for, what to be wary of, as well as when to know that we are being cared for safely and well. He knows that only by being informed about what to watch out for can we, together with the people who work within the organization, make the NHS the brilliant thing it can and should be. The brilliant thing it mostly is. Every home should have a copy of Staying Alive. I wish he’d written it before I started my patient journey. I’m glad you have it before you start yours.”
Wendy Lee – writer and patient leader
“Phil has become trip-advisor, tour-guide, navigator and the writer of a new bible on good-care, bad-care and a general what’s-what in the NHS. We expect Phil to be light hearted and in this book, he is. We expect him to be razor sharp and he is. We expect him to know a thing or two about being a doctor and he does. Everything we expect is in this book and more. From your legal rights to the right way to approach a doctor (shake his hand), this book has it all. Life style advice, healthy living and what to do when it all goes wrong. From common-sense to cervical-screening. Chronic diseases and the time when pull yourself together might not be a bad idea.
Do we ever really know what care we should be getting? Few do. This book will make sure there are a good few more! There are real life tragedies in this book, patient experiences alongside good news of the success the NHS delivers on a daily basis. This book should be on prescription, required reading for every family in the land and be on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet. This book has it all. It is the Swiss Army Knife book of the NHS. Prepared for everything.”
Roy Lilley – health writer, commentator and carer
“I read it cover to cover in three days; it’s a brilliant book which all of us should read – patients and professionals.”
Dr Alf Collins – specialist in chronic pain and person-centred care
“Enjoyable and very accessible, Hammond makes the argument for a new relationship between the patient/public and the NHS very powerfully. This argument is in my view vital for the future sustainability of the NHS and good health. CLANGERS is an approach to managing our own health and healthcare that could help the NHS and the people it serves”
Sir David Nicholson – former chief executive of NHS England and patient
“A storming book. Everyone serious about keeping healthy or overcoming serious ill health should read this book. The call to patients to look after themselves and sort themselves out without NHS intervention is a powerful one.”
David Grant – cancer survivor and patient leader
“This is an honest and simply wonderful book. Buy it, read it, read it again, and give it to others. It not only helps you to ‘stay alive’ – it helps you lead a much better and healthier life. From cradle to grave, this book shows you how you can ‘team up’ with our wonderful NHS – from supported self-care to making decisions about treatment and operations, and so much more. Dr Phil Hammond has ‘nailed it’ again and beautifully makes the case for his overarching message: that ‘great healthcare is all about kind, honest and trusting relationships.’
But don’t just take his word for it; the book is full of insightful and moving stories from patients, carers and others that Phil does what “the NHS needs to do: listen to patients”! Despite having worked in the NHS for over 20 years, I’ve learnt something new on almost every page.”
Dr Knut Schroeder GP and founder, expertselfcare.com
“Dr Phil Hammond has the prescription for a healthier life for you and has some pretty good ideas on how the NHS could be improved for all of us. Recommended.”
Marian Nicholson – Director, Herpes Viruses Association.
“Want to get the best from the NHS? How many strong, independent adults turn to shy, tongue-tied patients, and don’t ask questions for fear of seeming presumptuous. I did when my kids were ill – and I’m a doctor! Now Dr Phil Hammond has written a fabulous practical guide in his book Staying Alive – how to get the best from the NHS. Like me, he loves the NHS – but he knows we all need some help to navigate our way through it.
Dr Sarah Jarvis – GP, writer and doctor for The One Show and patient.co.uk
“If you use the NHS (i.e. all of use), you MUST read this book. If you’re a doctor you NEED to read this book. If you’re an NHS manager this book is VITAL”.
Dr Chris Steele – GP and doctor for ITV’s This Morning
“To describe “Staying Alive” as a bidet revolution does not do it justice. It is more colonic irrigation than bidet. Dr Phil wants to turn the NHS upside down and wash out the bureaucratic complexity that both infuriates and disempowers. He wants patients to be informed and powerful not ignorant and grateful. Ironically, he believes that it will be patients that save the NHS. Amen to that! “
David Prior – Chair, Care Quality Commission
“Ever kicked yourself for not being clued up before going through something risky and serious? For missing opportunities to prevent something bad from happening? Phil Hammond’s here to run with you on a journey of powerful stories, stats and wisdom. The destination? An activated and informed patient that can see the big picture, ready to support those around them, and ready for the NHS.”
“This gives you a good understanding of what it’s like to be a patient, what you need and can do to get it right, and what doctors are afraid to tell you but wish you knew. Hammond says that falling into illness is like falling in a river, which ‘can lead to numbness, anger, denial and confusion. But when you’re ready, you need to stop treading water and learn how to swim.’ This is just how to do that, stop yourself from getting in the river in the first place, and best ask the NHS boat to pull you aboard.”
“Want to get an insight into what it’s like to be a patient? Want to be a better patient? Want to support patients better? Read this book. It also tells you how to stay alive and well. And that care workers and carers should not be meek and mild. We are advocates. This sums up the book – a manual on how to advocate for yourself and those you love.”
Tom Stocker – patient and activist
Opinion Piece in the Nursing Times:
14 May, 2015
So who did you vote for? As the NHS promise auction unfolded, I smiled as each fantasy unravelled.
Politicians know they don’t have a hope in hell of providing a seven-day NHS (Tory), a sameday GP appointment for anyone over 75 (Tory), or a midwife by your side every minute of labour (Labour). Even if the money were available, how would we suddenly grow 8,000 more GPs, 20,000 more nurses and 3,000 more midwives (Labour and UKIP)? And is being able to see a GP on a Sunday afternoon really the best use of the NHS’s precious resources (Tory)?
My guess is that I did more for my own health – and that of the NHS – by walking to and from the polling station than by placing my cross. But then I also believe that for 90% of symptoms, you’d be better off with a dog than a doctor.
What we can do for ourselves to stay well often far exceeds what the NHS can do for us – we just need to give people the confidence, courage, hope and support to realise it. Whoever’s in charge of the NHS, it can’t survive without a massive shift to self-care and a bidet revolution in healthcare: from the bottom up.
I’ve written a book, Staying Alive – How to Get the Best from the NHS, about how patients can get the right self-care and NHS care. Well, actually patients and carers wrote half of it. I know a bit about mental health and resilience (my Dad suffered from depression and took his life when I was seven) but I’ve never been poor or seriously ill, and I’m in no position to tell people how to live their lives and how to behave when they become patients.
So I spent a lot of time listening to people who have survived and even thrived as patients, in and out of the NHS, and combined their tips and tactics with my insider knowledge. And I also listened to those whose NHS care had gone terribly wrong, and their advice on how to stop it happening to others.
Those with the most difficult, stressful lives are used to taking tough decisions every day. With the right information and support, they can use these skills to make the right choices when they use the NHS. Nearly all the patients and carers I spoke to wanted to improve the NHS, not just for themselves and their family, but for other patients. Most have had a satisfactory to excellent experience of the NHS and wanted to share their thoughts and ideas with others. And those who had poor or disastrous “care” were very driven by the needs to stop it happening to other people.
In 30 years in the NHS I’ve lived through 15 top-down structural reforms driven by ideology rather than evidence. My book isn’t party political because I strongly believe politicians of all sides should grow up and collaborate around evidence, compassion and patient experience.
If all we ever did in health and social care was listen to the suggestions and concerns of frontline staff, patients and carers, and act on this to continuously improve the service, the NHS would be the best in the world. We still need to put more money into it, but we need to be certain that money benefits patients.
And to deliver patient-centred care, patients need to reveal themselves as people – what matters most, their hopes and fears – and we have to listen.
As poet Mary Oliver put it: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” No one said on his or her deathbed: “I wish I’d spent more time hanging around the NHS.” Most lives need living and loving, not medicalising.
• Nursing Times readers can order a copy of Staying Alive – How to Get the Best From the NHS for £10 (instead of £14.99) at Bit.ly/1zBbdvJ, using the code: STAY.