After the mathematics of social and spiritual detachment: the work of Steve Hewlett to understand the NHS will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace Steve…you did a great job for all of us

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-08-42-45Featured image Impressionism produced by the wonderful agency YOKE for the Art for Life project in the NHS

Steve Hewlett, Media Show broadcaster,  he of the high belief in solutions to problems died on Monday 20th February 2017. The BBC said he’d died on Monday morning while listening to Bob Dylan with his family at the Royal Marsden in London.

Steve was the same age as me, of the 7 Up generation who were part of a documentary series started in 1964.

Documentary maker Michael Apted used film to follow children every seven years  on behalf of a society that was interested in social communication and connection, wanted to see social mobility. You can find it on DVD, it’s great because it’s a genuine attempt at a multiple perspective of what life is and what a life’s journey is:


It’s available on Amazon. The trailer’s here:

Steve Hewlett’s podcasts about his cancer diagnosis and treatment are here

I loved Steve Hewlett. I mean I loved the work of broadcaster Steve Hewlett, I loved his voice and his programmes and approach to journalism and life. Here he is:screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-23-02-39

(Steve Hewlett type humour)


Steve Hewlett The Guardian 22nd January: ‘For me this really is becoming stress city.’ Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer

Steve was head of the team on BBC’s current affairs programme, Panorama that broke the Princess Diana story.  In 1995 23 million people watched, openmouthed, as  Princess Diana used the programme to virtually ‘divorce’ Prince Charles.

Steve has been the ‘voice’ of  The Media Show about everything media since 2008 and has made it his. People like Steve help you and make you think about what you think. There aren’t many people like that in the media, he assumes you’re thinking, want to contribute. Reciprocity.

I listen every week because I want to know about the news, who writes it and who doesn’t.

(I honestly thought that a story about Rupert Murdoch’s company running online elections was true until I realised that it had come from a fake news site…).

This is why we need good people, good journalism out there, looking for facts and remembering that we’re all just human, not simply multifarious arrays of genomes for clinical trials and bureaucratic roadmaps to be sold off on markets….

Because good journalism to and for the NHS brings a sense of human proportion across ages, backgrounds and ethnicities

A visiting professor of Journalism, Steve is what I’d call a ‘good man’,  deeply connected to hope and possibility and the proper relationship between people  and facts, institutions and power. He is a bear of a man, fallible, like you and me,  full of everything that is good and funny and interesting and to be learned.

Steve Hewlett is also a human being who is fighting for his life, deep in cancer therapy and yet still busy looking for information that will help the NHS, (focus on the way nurses, doctors and patients and carers maladapt to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party competition amongst elements in a system that are never properly connected) at a time when he should be getting well, he is undercover, doing things to help other people, when he should be feeling that this is his time, to be treated and looked after. His human right.

Steve, like Alice,  is being put through a weird and fantastical process to prove and validate,  to work, if you like, when he should be in a place of respite and calm and all the very best treatment the hospital, his family,  friends and supporters can give.

What you realise through listening to Steve’s podcasts is how the NHS has lost its sense of reciprocity and purpose, the give and take of service and social accumulation that makes the money spent mean something to everyone who uses it.

A & E Departments have been undermined. Free at the point of delivery they’ve become places where the socially excluded and social problems are allow to queue up for ‘attention’ that the practitioners sense is more to do with not having a job, connection and safe home than with any medical crisis.

A & E is a part of society you can just walk into without spending money and be looked at as a person. A & E has felt the pain of the sale of council houses, agency and gang master labour, no house building for the brave new world of zero hours people’s lives.

Instead of believing in reversible reactions being possible in our great Beta social experiment we’re in a society where we’re all going one way, not looking back,  where instead of realising that we can have abundance and jobs and homes and a better quality of life for everyone we just spend our money with a real lack of imagination on security, surveillance, surreptitious  trials and studies without proper staffing or resourcing.

In the meantime we’ve created a culture where we accept that there’s an underclass in Britain.

It is like a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of Caucuses, moral and high ground causes that turn the tools of who we are and what we know into weapons of alienation and social exclusion and private medicine in NHS hospitals with the same consultant on the same day sometime.

Having a life threatening illness is enough.

Let it stop there. Let’s be appropriate in our hospitals or let’s say that we need to be honest about the naked fight to survive amongst patients who are treated, naked competition amongst physicians, naked competition in the NHS supply chain. 

We need journalists to document this: patients shouldn’t be explaining to professionals where they’ll find the latest info about clinical trials, for example?

Steve has podcast his fantastical journey in our currently mad world by telling us about the competition  around getting on drugs trials, letting us know how it feels to be a patient in the NHS, all the squeezing and pushing and pulling of the administration and bureaucracy and you look: nothing looks right here, everything is like an Alice in Wonderland world: too big, too small.

Nothing quite fits, ever, for anyone.

Clarity and DIY Medicine: the patient pushes the system and gets the treatment? Really? Is care that open to interpretation?

Should we all go to Patient School?

Why should the patient be pushing the treatment? Is this a wake up for care in the NHS? how many patients have the social capital and skills to achieve the care they should have?

One in two people, because we are living longer, will have some form of ‘cancer’ event in their lives.  Listening to Steve’s podcasts you get the feeling that he reckons that no-one in the system, from suppliers and Pharma, hospital admin to Macmillan nurses, consultants patients, friends and families believes that the conversation we have about the NHS is an honest and meaningful one.

Or in any way reaching out to enough people.

It should be a conversation about the real lives of everyone talking to experts, clinicians,  and letting everyone influence the quality that we all want. Time to listen.

Less of a relation with a bureaucracy and the class system…let’s sort out the social problems in society by thinking about full employment, houses and useful jobs for everyone who wants them.

Let’s not use social problems and the needs of the socially excluded as a way to diminish the health service and what it can achieve. We need a spirit of voluntarism but a notion of everyones intrinsic worth is essential for anyone’s voluntary work to mean anything.

Jobs and houses methinks for the social problems and peace and quiet in the NHS for staff, patients and their families please.

Thanks Steve Hewlett!


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