A mystery

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There's a bloke I've been watching on the telly.  Jim.  He's been teaching me quantum mechanics... he's on BBC4.

You clever lot probably know all about it... but it's new to me.  What I like about Jim; he doesn't pretend he knows everything.  Actually he couldn't.  Even if he wanted to.

Some aspects of Quantum Mechanics banjaxed Einstein.  Today, there remain riddles to be sorted.

It's fascinating.  We know 'what' QM is.  We also know 'how' it 'works'.  Wave form and all that.  The thing is; we don't know 'why'!

We are surrounded by the impact of QM, without it we wouldn't have some medical diagnostics, lasers and computers but it is intimidating.  It's rocket science!

It's all 'particles and waves'.  Quantum comes from the latin, meaning 'how much'.  In this case the answer is; integer multiples of fundamental energy... 1,2,14,137 and so-on.  

You with me?  Stay, it gets better!  

One of the most jaw-dropping aspects of QM is that despite its brain-box-melting cleverness, it's impossible to predict the outcome of an experiment.  Instead, scientists use 'probability'.  They conclude that everything in the universe is comprised of particles and waves.

If I've learned anything it's that science is not a collection of arcane knowledge known only by a few.  Science is a process, to figure out why and how things work.  Science is there for us all.  We know the 'what' and the 'how'.  Mostly, the 'why' is a work in progress. 

QM stuck in my mind as I watched the late news, that followed Jim's programme.

The usual suspects... standing in front of a hospital, telling us it's very busy... not rocket science.  It's as useful as standing in the rain telling us it's... er... raining.

It wont stop the working population going to A&E.  Their GP surgery closed when they go to work and closed when they get home... so off to A&E.  Not rocket science.

Stand in the queue in the chemist; the pharmacist pill-counting and focused on checking prescriptions.  Wonder why they can't find the time to talk to you in what's left of your 30 minute break?  Not rocket science.

LAs have no money, so've raise eligibility criteria, leaving 900,000 elderly people to their own devices.  Wondering why they end up in A&E?  Not rocket science.

Care-homes, with few trained, skilled staff... dial 999 at the first sign of trouble.   Not rocket science. 

It's not rocket science that NHSI will snaffle the Chancellor's £300m and set it against the existing deficits, on the grounds it's too late to spend this year.

There are 38,000 nurse vacancies.  The outcome... not rocket science. 

We know 'what' healthcare is; a cobbled-together collection of services, focussed on producing a measurable and satisfactory outcome.

We know the NHS is made up of particles; we call them people.  We know what they are doing.  Like particles they can work alone but they are more powerful in the waves we call teams.

We know about waves.  Make a ripple someplace and it will amplify into a Tsunami, elsewhere. 

We know the 'how' of healthcare.  We know 'how' to do it; study, learn, improve, share what good looks like.  We know how to run healthcare.

Healthcare, just like QM; we can explain the 'what' and the 'how'... but can you explain the 'why'.

Why do particles behave in the way they do?  QM can't tell us.  Even Jim doesn't know.  Why do people behave as they do?  Why do they come to work in the most appalling circumstances, under the most intolerable pressures, then come back and do it again the next day and the day after.

Vocation, care, compassion?  Because they can?  Because they feel they have to?  Because they know they make a difference?  They are wanted, admired and exploited in equal measure.  Because they need a job and it's all they know?  

All of the above?  The NHS is quantum mechanics.  We know 'what' we do and 'how' to do it but the 'why' is still a mystery.

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roy.lilley@nhsmanagers.net 

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