Articles, chronologised


[1] The Medical Model—its Limitations and Alternatives (1976)

What it says in the title! Uses the example of an ailing, elderly man struggling with later-life changes. The biomechanical can only take us so far: after that we need a certain kind of imagination. What is that?

[2] Suicide and Attempted Suicide: Its Origin and Course (1977)

Serious kinds of mental illness and self-harm are most easily designated. But what about more subtle forms of self-damage and self-sabotage? What are they?

[3] Out of Sight But Not Out of Mind (1977)

Those who professionally care for others are often much harsher with themselves. Overall, doctors have higher suicide risks than their patients. Why?

[4] Scientific Psychiatry: Progress or Regress? (1977)

Medicine and Psychiatry operate from a premise of taking responsibility and defining reality for others. What are the implications for those who need to reclaim these capacities, for themselves?

[5] Illness as Strategy and Communication (1977)

Illness is often best understood and approached beyond the biomechanical. Experiences or conflicts not otherwise manageable can find a refuge and conduit in illness. How and why?

[6] Adjustment or change? Radical issues in psychiatry (1978)

Often mental distress is designated in a way that further ‘pathologises’ and stigmatises the sufferer. How may we, rather, reframe our problems in ways that are self-realising and empowering?

[7] The Elements of Psychotherapy  (1981)

A short survey written for Doctors. How may thinking and talking with another person help the harmony of body, mind and relationships? How to start and when to stop?

[8] Transactional Analysis in Medical Practice: Part 1 (1981)

A clear and flexible model helping us understand the different parts of ourselves and others. How are these related to our unique stories, and then our patterns of concord or discord?

[9] Transactional Analysis in Medical Practice: Part 2 (1982)

A continuation of Part I. How are so many repetitive unhelpful patterns set up in childhood, to last a lifetime? If we can understand, when is this helpful in redirection?

[10] A Psychosomatic Approach (1982)

How, by expanding the biomechanical approach into a more multifaceted holism, can we broaden and deepen understanding and engagement with individuals?

[11] The Psychosomatic Mosaic (1982)

A further coaxing of the biomechanical into a broader holism. How can individual illnesses be encountered and understood in family systems?

[12] Mother, Magic or Medicine? The Psychology of the Placebo (1984)

Placebos are fascinating phenomena of induced interpersonal healing, sometimes by accident! How does this happen? What are the developmental and transactional psychological theories that can explain?

[13] Physician Heal Thyself: The Paradox of the Wounded Healer (1984)

What are the personal vulnerabilities of doctors? How are these related not only to individual wounds, but to idealised roles and depersonalised trainings?

[14] Babel or Bible?
Order, Chaos and Creativity in Psychotherapy

Theories of mind are only ever ‘good-enough’, for now. What happens when psychotherapists (and others) elevate their theories to a realm of Immaculate Truth?

[15] Three Types of Encounter in the Healing Arts:
Dialogue, Dialectic and Didacticism

Knowledge, language and understanding are all human activities and constructions. What are the different types when we encounter others? How do we then ‘pack’ or ‘unpack’ the experience of these others? How, when and why does it matter?

[16] The Psychoecology of Gladys Parlett (1988)

Distressed people often want skilful, if ritualised, human contact. What happens if we unimaginatively and excessively medicalise this? Gladys, in the 1980s, forewarns us.

[17] The Front Door of Psychotherapy:
Aspects from General Medical Practice

The communicative skills - enabling others to heal, grow and become more resilient - have been distilled and documented, especially by psychotherapists. What happens in other venues with these kinds of complex exchanges? How is this enacted in General Practice?

[18] The Shadow of Venus: Atavism and Sexuality (1995)

Our sexuality is one of the more tragi-comic deciders of destiny. Can an understanding of our evolution, as a species and as individuals, explain why?

[19] Edward: shot in his own interest. Technototalitarianism and the fragility of the therapeutic dance  (2005)

We have become accustomed to almost everything being prepacked, containerised and computer-coded. This has happened to knowledge. What happens to personal knowledge?

[20] Planning, Reform and the need for Live, Human Sacrifices: Homogeny and Hegemony as Symbols of Progress (2006)

What are the hidden psychological currents that may lie behind zealous attempts to ‘modernise’ and standardise? Some motives may be obscured and dark. How are they expressed?

[21] Modern Times: True Parables from the Frontline of the NHS   (2007/2017)

Change is often called ‘progress’. Looking at changes in healthcare, this considers two themes: ‘Imagination’ and ‘Belonging’. When is change progress?

 [22] No Country for Old Men:
The Rise of Managerialism and the New Cultural Vacuum

The more we control, the less free we are to explore. If we increase the culture of management, what happens to the spirit of enquiry? And patient care? A historical account.

[23] Psychiatry: Love's Labour's Lost
The pursuit of The Plan and the eclipse of the personal

In psychiatric and psychological healthcare, personal attachments and investments in therapeutic work have been eclipsed by ‘objective’ attempts at management. What has this been like for patients and staff? A thirty-five year spanned portrait.

[24] Why Would Anyone Use an Unproven Therapy? 
Treasures in the Mist  (2010)

Much of the most effective work healthcare workers do is inexplicit and undesignated. What does it, then, consist of? The Wizard of Oz has much to tell us.

[25] Idiomorphism: the Lost Continent
How diagnosis displaces personal understanding

Diagnosis is a professional convention enabling us to cluster and code. Sometimes it is essential and crucial to help. At other times more is lost than gained. What? Why? Who?

[26] Resolved or Abandoned?
Irresponsibly lost Transference: a professionally embarrassed tale

Psychotherapists increasingly talk of managed and schematised personal change, but often the catalysts are serendipitous. What can happen?

[27] Sense and Sensibility:
The danger of Specialisms to holistic, psychological care

Few would want an operation done by a non-specialist. So is specialisation always a good thing, with every kind of distress? Can we go too far? What happens then?

[28] How to help Harry - Friend or Foe?
The scientific and the scientistic in the fog of the frontline

Helping others to change can be a very delicate dance. Attempts at ‘civic engineering’ frequently miss nuances of meaning and opportunity. Does this matter? Why?

[29] Eric - diagnosis may sometimes be necessary; it is rarely sufficient (2012)

Centralised planning and control are key to the success of many healthcare initiatives, for example the containment of dangerous infectious diseases. But what are the limits of this approach? Eric shows us what can happen in mental healthcare.

[30] Fallacies in Blunderland: Overschematic overmanagement: perverse healthcare (2012)

Competition, commissioning, contracting ... do such devices really ‘drive up’ the quality of healthcare? Are there other, absurd and darker consequences? What are these?

[31] From Family to Factory: The dying ethos of personal healthcare (2012)

NHS healthcare has transformed looser, informal, colleagueial networks of care into tighter, sharper, more managed ‘production units'. We have turned families into factories. What have we lost?

[32] Understanding the Other: Four elemental questions for therapeutic psychology. A personal view (2012)

When attempting to understand and help the anguish of another, what kind of knowledge helps us most? What lies behind and beyond designated systems? Can one have a ‘holistic psychology'?

[33] Words and Numbers: Servants or Masters? Caveats for holistic healthcare Part 1 (2012)

Holism’s fuller engagement with realities is an aspiration and ideal. It can never be complete, and in practice, there are many obstructions. These range from our use of language to our highly managed and industrialised culture. How does this happen? What are the consequences? This is the first of two articles.

[34] If you want good personal healthcare, see a Vet. Caveats for holistic healthcare Part II (2012)

The over-explicit and over-schematic can block our perception of larger and more subtle realities. This second of two articles portrays how this happens, and what we may be left with.

[35] Democratic Fatigue: information overload (2012)

Is increasing choice and information always what we want? Do these necessarily facilitate democratic sense and empowerment? The non-participation in recent Police Commissioner elections suggests otherwise. Parallels in healthcare are instructive.

[36] Missed and Miscommunications: Personal disconnections in Psychological Healthcare. A letter for embattled colleagues. (2013)

Throughout our most important, difficult and intimate relationships we must be able to listen carefully to what we do not want to hear - without this much is jeopardised. This is true, too, in many of our healing encounters - often these require our best attempts to creatively contain dissonance.

[37] PsychoTapas (2013)

PsychoTapas! Sound-bite seminars for modern conferences!

[38] Institutional atrocities: The malign vacuum from industrialised healthcare (2013)

Flagrant neglect or abuse in our care of the vulnerable within our advanced Welfare State seems shockingly perverse. How and why does this happen?

[39] Beyond Orwell: Healthcare’s hollow governance (2013)

Our smallest difficulties with others are often rich in political complexity. What does this mean? Two apparently trivial examples from healthcare administration are explored.

[40] Language is not just data: it is a custodian of our humanity (2013)

Computers and informatics have become central to NHS healthcare. All experience and activity are now subject to official technical designations. This changes our communications: language becomes increasingly lackeyed to the computer’s requirements. Much else is lost. What?

[41] Post Mid Staffs: A Plenitude of Platitudes (2013)

Can the harmful excesses of depersonalisation in healthcare be usefully addressed by further redesign of systems and management? Or do we need a different kind of thinking and vocabulary?

[42] 'GPs know their patients, families and communities' - Really? (2013)

GPs are increasingly employed as task-directed, upper-echelon healthdroids. They are losing the pastoral skills that depend on holistic views and vernacular understandings. Why is that?

[43] Hello, Health Commissioner. Goodbye, Family Doctor? The new healthcare reforms and their threat to personal doctoring. (2013)

The idea, now diktat, that GPs should lead the complex provision of healthcare for localities may subtract more than it adds to overall health-welfare. How and why could this happen?

[44] All is Therapy; All is Diagnosis. Unmapped and perishing latitudes of healthcare (2013)

Advances in medical science have often subtly and inadvertently subverted human connections and understandings. Vignettes spanning sixty years show how and why.

[45] Our Ill-faring Welfare. The hinterland of our headlines (2013)

Despite ever-increasing funding and management initiatives, our public welfare services seem riddled with unhappiness, corruption and sometimes cruelty. These are alarming paradoxes: how do we understand them?

[46] Bingo! Majoritarian Healthcare! (2013)

Transparency, Accountability and Democracy can seem like a protective triumvirate for public decision making, but these can easily turn shallow, demotic and false. Here is a small example of what is coming.

[47] Where in the World are You? Miraculous cyber; insidious dislocation (2013)
What do mobile communications, Internet sex and modern schematised health systems have in common? – a computer mediated disconnection of intended content from embedding human context. What happens?

[48] Form Devouring Essence: When brokered services tend broken hearts (2014)
Our healthcare rhetoric of data and systems has largely destroyed our capacity to make the kind of personal bonds that understand and heal human dissonance. Stephen and his plight serve to illustrate and explore this.

[49] Autoasphyxiation: The doomed brief of GP Clinical Commissioning Groups (2014)
The corralling of GPs to design and commission health services cannot counter the inherent disintegration and depersonalisation of Marketisation. A glimpse from the frontline.

[50] Some Countercultural Caveats for Pastoral Healthcare – the fractious coexistence of packaged care and therapeutic spirit (2014)
Pastoral healthcare has a crisis of competence, morale and humanity. This currently eludes enormous funds and myriad think-tanks. The elusions are subtle. What are they?

[51] Neglect in NHS Healthcare? (2014)
We have turned familes into factories.

[52] Packaged Mindfulness? Some unpackaged pieces of mind. Can our integrity and wisdom thrive with mass-production? (2014)
Our increasing push-buttoned and systems-managed world has produced myriad losses of human relationship and personal sentience. Can this then be countered by modern packaging of ancient wisdom and practices? Is this our wisest approach?

[53] A day in the life (2014)
Man Overboard! A brief autobiographical cross-section

[54] NHS England 2014: Vichy France 1941: The old ghosts in our new NHS machine
Governmentally prescribed schemes to increase democratic accountability in Welfare are easy to intend, yet very difficult to implement. They can easily backfire to unanticipated forms of oligarchy or totalitarianism. How does this happen?

[55] Our unravelling humanity: do we need more regulations? (2014)
To its credit the government seems to now be understanding the importance of lost human connections. The response, though, is predictable: it is to add to Healthcare’s already massive regulation. This may add rather more to our problems. How?

[56] PBR, PBC, PCT, CCG, CMHT, CBT, NICE, QUOF: NHS Alphabetti spaghetti? A guide for the perplexed: a critical glossary (2014)
What do the plethora of NHS institutional terms mean? Why are they important to understand? And what is their relationship to one another? Can this help explain our current malaise in healthcare? Here is a critical glossary.

[57] Mass-produced Mindfulness for Common Mental Health Problems: The awkward dance between managed systems and human meaning (2014)
A greater and calmer sentience is key to much of our better health and life-experiences. Can we mass-produce methods to achieve this?

[58] Our Welfare is ill-fared by yet more strictures and structures (2014)
Surely, all Welfare professionals should forever be more strictly appraised and registered? Here are some reasons why not.

[59] Six Suicides and One Homicide. The catastrophe of jettisoned personal containment in healthcare (2015)
Care and treatment are different though synergistic. The increasing trend to executise treatment over care destroys this critical complementarity. The consequences show us how important are such balances.

[60] Healthcare's Hole in the Heart : Can we have value for money and not lose our humanity (2015)
Efficiency has now become cardinal in healthcare management. Increasingly methods from competitive production industries have been adopted. Yet the results are often paradoxical and demotivating. Why is that?

[61] Appraisals: how do we assure safety without asphyxiation? (2015)
‘We can’t carry on like this!’ is now a familiar cry of impotent frustration throughout Welfare services. Clearly we need challenges to our dysfunctional order. Yet our officials’ responses are often redolent of the last gasps of Empire: draconian authority with officious nervousness. What is happening?

This example – of General Practitioner Appraisals – is a telling microcosm.

[62] A Fortunate Man: the vulnerability of vocation. A major work revisited (2015)
A Fortunate Man – a searching portrait of a country GP by essayist and novelist John Berger – was first published in 1967. It projected a highly personal view of medical practice: one undertowed by rich human complexity. Nearly fifty years later, what does this anciently pioneering book offer us?

[63] Rick and Ajita: How may we reconcile systems of healthcare with our subtle humanity? (2015)
Systems – our ordering of commonalities – have contributed greatly to our treatment of structural disease. Elsewhere systems are much more problematic. Rick and Ajita show us how and why.

[64] Evidence from Professional Appraisals? We learn more about the governors than the governed (2015)
Professional Appraisals have become often absurdly complex, cumbersome and remote, and then blindly authoritarian. Now they obscure and destroy more than they can assure. What, then, do Appraisals tell us?

[65] Off-piste: only fresh tracks lead to fraternalism in healthcare (2016)
Care Pathways – executively designed systems for all – can easily displace the nourishment of our healthcare from fraternalism. What is that? Two intimate vignettes illustrate.

[66] From Balint to Square-bashing. Fifty years’ experience of General Practice (2016)
Our healthcare’s increasing employment of complex technology is often accompanied by a disinheritance of our human complexity. This inverse relationship is undesigned but ever-more important. A personal history of the culture explains.

[67] Preventing Overdiagnosis? Yes, but what kind? Part 1: Geography (2016)
‘Preventing overdiagnosis’ should be an undeniable call. Yet even to agree a definition will prove impossible. To understand why it requires us to look far beyond the workaday tenets of our professional practice: the hinterland is vast. This is the first of two parts.

[68] Preventing Overdiagnosis? We need fewer systems and more philosophy Part 2: Geology (2016)
Contemporary medical practice now harvests two new and increasing tranches of diagnosis: first, subjective experiences of discordance, disturbance or distress; then symptomless but risk-linked biometric anomalies. These have led to a massive medicalisation of areas of life often better otherwise understood.

[69] Revitalising Holism. We need literature of wit and grit more than piety and idealisation (2016)
‘Holism’ can easily become a politically correct, liberal healthcare catechism. A recently published book of sterling values, The Snake in the Clinic, illustrates the problem. Here is a review.

[70] Our ailing profession. We need more than resilience and replenishment (2016)
The malaise among NHS healthcarers is akin to the patient dying from an internal haemorrhage: oral replenishments, or even transfusions, may be very inadequate.
A recent day conference parried this perspective.

[71] Can Art’s courageous experiments also be accessible? A review of a brief work of brilliant obscurity (2016)
Sometimes art and philosophy tantalise us with ideas or experiences we can never quite ‘get’. Sometimes, we may suspect, this is the author’s intent. Can this, nevertheless, enrich us?

[72] How and Why Do We Retire? Ill omens for younger doctors (2016)
The nature of our departures from our work often tells us much about what kind of problems are being left behind. The individual may escape, but what about the wider community?

[73] Introductory note to Death by Documentation (2016)

[74] Death by Documentation: The penalty for corporate non-compliance (2016)
Our organisational efforts to assure fail-safety, uniformity and probity can easily – in excess – turn destructive beyond anyone’s wish or anticipation. This tale tells how such ‘mission creep’ happens and how it is sustained.

[75] General Practice is the Art of the Possible: but we are turning it into a tyranny of the unworkable. Reflections on our inspections regime (2016)
There used to be a tacit assumption that healthcare (and welfare generally) was mostly imperfectible, but that practitioners would generally do their best. All that has been replaced by something very different. This long letter – to an NHS inspection manager – shows in detail how we lose our professional trust, identity and integrity.

[76] CQC Inspection and closure of my NHS General Practice. Farewell from a long career
Letter to Chief Medical Inspector of Care Quality Commission,
November 2016

[77] The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating: Actual and virtual realities: how our inspection culture unhinges, (2016)
What’s really going on? How do we know? Who do we listen to: the participants or officially designated inspectors? This response to a contended official report – that rapidly closed down a small and very popular GP surgery – portrays our difficulties.

[78] Is expedience the death of our professional spirit? What our colleagueial utterances are telling us (2016)
Short-term adaptations to survive may – longer term – have the reverse effect. How can this be? This short dispatch, from an ailing frontline of our NHS, explains.

[79] Too Big to Talk About. Organisational momentum: its paralytic wake (2016)
Corporatism often enlarges and entrenches itself by increasing demands for compliance. Eventually though, unchecked, this will sicken any organisation. Such is now evidently ailing our NHS. A brief glimpse from a small conference provides a sample.

[80] I, Daniel Blake. Industrialised humanity: why and how should we care for one another? Fraternal wisdom from a film maker (2017)
How do we best assess the complex needs of others? Are these best served by always increasing systems – now particularly computerisation and proceduralisation – to determine our human contact? A recent film I, Daniel Blake, cautions with courageous wisdom.

[81] When is Compliance Necessary for Public Safety? The policing of Welfare: a personal story (2017)
Imposing managerial order onto some aspects of our natural human complexity is far more easy and attractive to design than to sustain. Our misplaced and excessive efforts can lose us far more than we gain. Here is one salutary story and a broader analysis of social control.

[82] Holism is less about eliminating root causes than tending our many branches. Reflections on causation in healthcare (2017)
Attributing causes to human behaviour and predicaments may seem often essential and sometimes easy: it is frequently tricky. With the pursuit of ‘root causes’ this is especially so – the greater our efforts, the more we are likely to miss. An intimately observed example explains.

[83] Abolishing the NHS Internal Market. Too big to talk about? (2017)
Our healthcare culture is now largely controlled by notions of commerce, ubiquitous surveillance and micromanagement. The inevitable depersonalisation is increasingly disliked by both healthcarers and patients. Nevertheless we seem unable to reverse these effects. What is happening? How do we respond?

[84] When is Change Progress? Are we throwing the baby out with the bath water? (2017)
Risk management and quality assurance must always be good, surely? Not necessarily. More of something good is not always better. Sometimes we can add more problems than we take away. A complex public event and two private dialogues illustrate.

[85] David Zigmond: Biography for Centre for Welfare Reform (2017)

[86] Should All Doctors be Resuscitators? Unfactored costs of prescribed risk management Rhetoric is easier than reality (2017)
Being prepared for unlikely risk or adversity may sound like good counsel. But only so far: beyond that other things are damaged. This speculative analysis is of a recent safeguarding inspection. It demonstrates how apparently sensible procedures may, when extended, distort and implicate far more than we usually imagine or intend. What happens? How do we understand?

[87] The Cost of Everything and the Value of Nothing (2017)
A recent book NHS For Sale provides a trenchant analysis of how the market brings waste, expensive complexity and inevitable corruption to healthcare. But the damage is even more extensive: this review and reflection explores.

[88A Healthy Heart for the NHS? What is the price of sacrificing personal relationships for public money? (2017)
A recent article, Back in the emergency room, conveys clearly the twenty-five years of economic waste and organisational inefficiency brought by the serial reforms to our NHS.

The author, though, does not address the human damage and cost. Here is a corrective.

[89] Wrong, wrong, WRONG … OUT! How can we contain one-size-fits-all policies? Three struggling letters (2017)
Our welfare services are increasingly controlled by RMIC (remote management, inspection and compliance) regimes. Evidence of long-term benefits of RMIC are patchy and contentious; evidence of damage or harm is much more substantial, and by many indices. 

These problems, and the difficulty engaging authorities, are illustrated by three letters between a coercively ‘decommissioned’ GP and a governing authority (the Care Quality Commission).

[90] Hi Tech With Many Human Hearts. Vitalising humanity from a film maker (2017) A recent film Heal the Living (directed by Katell Quillévérré, 2016) weaves a rich tapestry. Life’s vicissitudes, human paradox and interconnectedness – all are here: holism at its most raw and tender.

Spoiler alert: This article describes much of the content of the film.

[91] Déjà Vu. Twenty-first century healthcare reforms and post-war urban renewal (2017)
Two large reforming movements in recent history have lost their human sense as they have gained momentum. What did they overlook? What can we learn? 

[92] Boadicea and The Machine. The price of survival as a frontline medical practitioner (2017)
NHS doctors describe increasing stress, pressure, demoralisation and alienation. What is this like to work in? Why is this happening? A recent book, Your Life In My Hands: A Junior Doctor’s Story, offers vivid description and challenging analysis.

[93] People or Procedures? Personalised treatment can be very different to personal care. Why? (2017)
Recent advances in genetic mapping herald some dramatically positive developments in hi tech healthcare. Yet this is paralleled by unprecedented ailing demoralisation and alienation within the service that will deliver these. How do we explain this discrepancy? What can we expect?

[94] Not So Sapiens After All. Lessons for Welfare from a history teacher (2017)
The trials and tribulations of our Welfare system have deeper and more complex roots than many can imagine. A recent and remarkable book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
can greatly help deepen and broaden our understanding.













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Version: 25th September 2017