A partner in a North London practice was feeling burned out. The crushing target-chasing workload was no longer offset by the reward of helping patients. The BNF had no remedy for the distresses of modern life which patients were bringing into her consulting room. She, like her patients, was ground down.
Casting about for a way of reviving the sense of hope and enthusiasm that had led her into medicine, she contacted the local Transition Group. Three years later a bleak courtyard next to the practice has transformed into The Listening Space – a therapeutic garden where patients and staff get together. They have pitched in to create a beautiful and productive green space. People who no longer have gardens of their own share their expertise, patients help with planting and harvesting, and they cook for seasonal parties. Immigrants are delighted to share their traditional dishes. Patients and staff demonstrate their music talents, and everyone chats.
The ‘Crafternoons’ in the waiting room were slow to take off, but gradually patients plucked up the courage to join in, and now it’s a flourishing social group. Lonely patients in the waiting room are encouraged to participate. While members embroidered ‘welcome’ onto fabrics in their native languages, an old man sat on the edge of the group staring at his hands. Suddenly he perked up, saying “You haven’t got my language ”. Offered blue thread, he insisted on red, gold and green, the colours of his birth nation’s flag. He’s now a regular, and for the first time, staff say, he’s smiling.