• Carolyn M Holmes

Doctor, doctor, there's an elephant in the room...

Updated: Dec 4, 2020


Whilst listening to an informative Kings fund, webcast on the future of health and social care, and collecting my usual NHS phrases for the No1 bestseller, I was struck by the introduction of elephants in the serious and erudite discussion on health policy.

'It's the elephant in the room and quite a scary elephant!', and later, 'Back to the elephant!' Was I the only one thinking 'Whoa, what's going on here?!'

Well you can guess that the elephant represented something beginning with 'B', and a hot potato at the moment in British politics.


But I wonder why we have chosen elephants, rather than any other animal, to talk about most in the NHS, to represent this thing which supposedly we are aware of but can't see, and don't want to talk about even though it is present in most of our gripping meetings. We are certainly not talking about pink elephants which apparently people see when drunk or a white elephant which doesn't cost much anymore but did once upon a time.

Whilst undertaking desktop research into the elephants, Ive come across useful advice, such as 'Verify its real' and 'acknowledge its presence'. I'm not sure whether this means reach out to touch it and say hello, give it a chair, offer it some bananas from the leftover lunch.... Elephants are said in Buddhist culture to bring good luck and wisdom, so we certainly need a herd of elephants, or a team building trip organised PDQ and apparently take one back and station it by the main door to make us feel powerful!

Elephants are mesmerising creatures, sadly mistreated and pursued. My daughter, on her working trip to Thailand visited an elephant rescue centre, was so taken with the elephants that they became her friends, almost ran her over and splashed her playfully. At our family trip to Belfast zoo many years ago, I was amazed how healthy the elephants were, eating bucketfuls of fruit and fresh veg. Let's think out of the box...we should use them in healthy eating campaigns, put their pictures on hospital menus....

Or maybe we should just start imagining what the 'elephant' in our room is really like, welcome them to the table, give them space on the agenda, make sure we have enough resources to satisfy him/her and as Randy Paush, the late American professor of computer science said, 'When there is an elephant in the room introduce him!'

For those of you who are wondering, I have checked the very long term plan for the NHS and there are no references to elephants and only two about Brexit. I'm not sure what I'm more surprised about.


#manageyourlanguage



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