Positive Rebellion With Tom Bell
Punks are rebels at heart and what the world needs right now is good old-fashioned positive rebellion to drive it forward. In this episode, Tony Martignetti sits down for a chat with Tom Bell, the founder of HIPSS and the author of Lions, Liars, Donkeys and Penguins: The Killing of Alison. Tom shares his reflections on materialism, acceptance of the problems in society, righteous anger, the need for the punk mentality, the toll of suicide on survivors, what’s worth fighting for, and facing the past. He tackles the effects his experience has had on him and his recognition of the problems with the status quo. Tom speaks about alternatives to bureaucracy and the need for people to take action, and he ends with a plea for honesty and openness about mistakes from public services.
Positive Rebellion With Tom Bell
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Tom Bell. He is the Founding Director of HIPSS. It is Honesty and Integrity in Public Services. This is what Tom calls his true calling. It is about creating partnerships between public, private and voluntary sectors to create a better future together. He is an escapee from radical religion, a former homeless punk and a former NHS manager. He is the author of Lions, Liars, Donkeys and Penguins: The Killing of Alison. It is quite an interesting title and book I haven't read. He was driven to write this book out of necessity, and I'm sure he is going to get into the details around that book. He lives in the little town of Penrith in the County of Cumbria, UK. Tom, without further ado, I want to welcome you to the show.
It is an absolute pleasure to be here. At Glastonbury Festival that we've been going to a few times, one of the best conversations I've ever had is being sat around the campfire. At the end of the night, everybody is sitting down, exchanging thoughts, views and having an open conversation. The campfire is a wonderful thing.
It is why I chose this feeling of the campfire because it is that warmth in the conversations that you have around the campfire. Thank you for saying that. I'm excited to have this conversation. I'm sure that people reading your intro are like, "What?" There's so much about your past that piques a lot of interest. I would love to dig into that and share it with people. To give you a sense of how we roll in the show, we are going to go over what's called flashpoints. These are points in your story that have ignited your gifts into the world. Along the way, we're going to stop and see what shows up as you share your thoughts. We'll see what themes are showing up. We'll let you take it from there.
It's great that you gave me that good introduction and it was spot-on. I was driven to writing. Simon Sinek calls it the worthy challenge, where you find that thing that might be incredibly difficult but it ignites and resonates. I know when we were talking before, exchanging pleasantries and asking how we do the words I described myself to you as poor but content. What I meant by that was that those traditional definitions of success that we've all experienced when we were younger, I'm at a point where I think those are increasingly meaningless, the acquisition of morphemes. That's quite a confession coming from a chartered marketer. I look at marketing now as that slightly cynical person who thinks it is about persuading people to pay with money they don't have, buy things they don't need or impress people they don't like. We're all accumulating things.
I read a book which is about the American punk scene in the 1980s. It was talking about Ronald Reagan wanting to do the bits and bobs. I hadn't realized that Ronald Reagan was the guy that used, "Let's make America great again," phrase. Things go around in circles. It is interesting that the book talks about the televised debate between him and Jimmy Carter at that time. He was your president then. Jimmy Carter was widely derided for getting a little bit philosophical in his television debate when he described a situation that concerns here in which he saw people trying to become who they were through acquiring things rather than doing things. The difference that we are what we do rather than what we own and what we have is important. It is a message that didn't resonate with Ronald Reagan who was the king of consumerism. I'm not going to get too far into American politics because I'm in danger of getting into a territory where your readers and you will know much more about than I do.
By the way, thank you for reading the book. That means a lot to me. It is good to know that the message is getting out there. I had reached a point with that book where I got depressed and considering suicide. I can go a bit more into detail on the book if you think people would appreciate that. The book is all about a series of events that brought me to looked around me and despaired everything. It was the injustice that was done to my sister Alison before she took her own life in 1991 that brought me to this point and finding out what had gone on almost by accident.
As I started to uncover all the wrongs that had occurred, it seemed as if every stone that I turned over have something underneath it that was bad and terrible. Every time I approached the organizations that we are supposed to approach and revere in a civilized society whether that's the police, justice system or healthcare system, everybody closed their doors to me. Nobody wanted to deal with this terrible issue. I reached this point of anger, suicide and depression. There were lots of anger in that book and it is righteous anger. It is an entirely justified anger. You come to a point where your anger has to turn into passion. Your anger is a platform. John Lydon famously said, "Anger is an energy." I'm sure he was pinching it from someone else.
The most destructive thing is to leave things the way they are.
For me, that anger was the only thing that fueled me for a number of years and kept me afloat. Getting literature on you, one of the greatest books that I've read was John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. There's a fabulous passage in it. In that book he said, "When the men were angry, the women weren't worried because the women knew that the anger was the thing that draws things. As long as they were angry that was okay. It was when they became isolated and depressed that was the problem." The anger was very much seen as positive energy in that respect. You reach a point where you can either say to yourself, "I'm going to go and live in the woods forever. Screw the world and society. Let's get out of it. It is not working. I hate it," or you can say, "There is a worthy challenge here and an opportunity for improvement."
That's probably my more natural optimistic nature. I'm not an angry person by nature. I'm quite an optimist. In fact, I remember when I joined the NHS before long this kicks off, my boss told me that I was the most enthusiastic person that she ever employed. Normally, you wouldn't think of that but that was great for me because I've come in. I used to work in sales and advise small businesses. I have this background of doing things and seeing opportunities. When I joined the NHS, the National Health Service, I got stuck in and I was very different from the people that work there.
I thought that was a good thing because a lot of people that work in the public sector become a bit stale. The machine lumbers on. They do that bit and turn up. They're a cog in the wheel. Everybody says, "There's nothing we can do to change this. We can't make it better. That's just the way it is. It is not our responsibility. We're not accountable for it. We go in, do our eight hours, take the paycheck and go home." That's unfortunate. It is a wasted life.
I want to reflect on that for a moment. This is what I understand around the story. It is like the need for rebels inside the workplace, but it is a healthy balance of rebelling in a positive way. As you said, you were angry but optimistic, and that combination makes a healthy balance. If you're angry and it becomes a violent angry, then that's something that becomes tipping the balance in the wrong way but angry where you're almost rebelling for something so powerful that it makes you want to see how you can make that thing happen because you're not going to stand for the way things are. It is no longer the status quo. One of the things that came to mind as soon as you started talking is around you wanted a voice to be heard and don't want to be held back. That's a punk mentality. When I think back to what they wanted to do, they wanted to stand out. You can share this more than I. It was more about like, "We don't want to be fitting in. We want to stand out. We want people to hear us."
In hindsight, some of the things that are attractive about punk to any young person are it is new and innovative. Going back to the late '70s and early '80s, it attracted people who didn't want to be the same. There was an element of fashion and the zeitgeist. Also, for people like me, there must be more to it than just chasing the same life that everybody else has. I tried to chase that life for a while. I was an incredibly good salesman when I set off selling when I was younger. I remember winning a flight on Concorde at one time and getting trips to first-class hotels in faraway islands. After my sister took her life in 1991, I didn't realize at that time how much it had changed me.
I used to have these periods where I couldn't get motivated about material things anymore. It is funny. I always thought that punk was something that you grew out of, and it feels to me now that we need it more than ever, not the music. The music doesn't matter. We need the attitude more than ever because the music is so varied. It is everything from Crass to the Dead Kennedys. The Clash is one of my favorite bands. We need that attitude. Let's challenge the status quo. To phrase from your side of the pond, let's make good trouble because leaving things as they are is not an option. It comes from a recognition that life is a work in progress. Once you see that, you realize that our view of society and what we expect from society are works in progress.
We are what we do, not what we own.
We tend to look at ourselves and think we've reached the pinnacle of civilization. The reality is that we're still trying to fathom our way through this. There can be no doubt in anybody but the strangest person's mind that when we have a world living in less than $1 a day and we have people on the same planet who have billions in their bank accounts that they pretty much don't know what to do with, there's something wrong there. We clearly haven't reached the peak of our civilization. What does it mean to be human? We're still fathoming these things out and being a human being is the same as everybody else. Does it mean the career, pension, relationship, house, car or labels? It has to mean more than that.
When you said work in progress, which is such a great way of thinking about it, it leaves room for us to be okay to be wrong, have the compassion to be wrong and those elements of failures that you can embrace and say, "I'm still learning." No matter what age you are, you're still learning and that's cool. It also gives that grace around as we're getting into this punk rock mentality. It is like, "Let's continue to make a mess because we can still clean it up."
It is interesting that the mess is the status quo and challenging that is the positive thing. The most destructive thing is to leave things the way they are because our mental health is suffering because of this. If you speak to anybody within the World Health Organization as we used to do when I was in the National Health Service, mental health for them is going to be the hugest challenge and COVID is going to reinforce that. One of the things that are driving poor mental health, especially to the young people who are suffering from this is this whole materialistic approach to fulfillment that somehow having things will make you happy and those things are the key to your future. Once you have achieved those things, somehow happiness is always the next step and purchase. Happiness is maybe the wrong word. I got to tell you, I am happy at the moment but I've never been as content. I had less money than I find for years.
One of the things that I've come to realize with this being happy first is the way to go through life and not have it be a goal to get to, which is so important. I want to take a step back. For the audience to know a bit of your story, tell in an abridged way the story of what became the fight that you had to go through for your sister and what that led to in terms of the work you're doing now. I would love to know some of those details.
I'll wind us back to the midst of time. In 1987, my sister Alison who was two years older than me had her first real mental breakdown. In this country, we call it sectioned. She was put into a mental health hospital which was 20 miles North of where we are on the Northern tip of England. Things were going on there that we didn't know at that time. That was problem number one. Three years later, on December 13, 1991 Alison stepped in front of a train at Rotherham railway station in South Yorkshire. She ended her life. At that time, you can appreciate that it was an incredible curveball.
Suicide is like a bomb going off. I don't know what a bomb going off is like to anybody. It is probably the closest emotional thing you can get to somebody throwing a grenade into your head. It messes with everything and all these perceptions that you have because suicide is a tragedy that happens in other people's lives. It is one of those things that you feel sorry for other people who have got members of their family that have experienced it but you always think to yourself, "That never happened to anyone I know."
Mental health in the late 1980s was much more of a taboo than it is now. One of the things that drove Alison to suicide was the fact that she couldn't talk about the things that she had been through. In a nutshell, we then found out from my mom by accident in 1999 almost as the learning approached who was a very zealous Born Again Christian what had happened to Alison. It was almost accidental. She said it during a conversation over a cup of tea. She was saying, "What's the weather like here?" She said to my oldest sister, Sarah and I, "I presume you knew about the abortion that Alison had as a result of the relationship with this guy,” that she named. We looked at her and we’re like, "No, we didn't." We were gobsmacked.
That was a bit of a bolt from the blue. We got used to living without Alison. That sounds mercenary but this was almost ten years after she had taken her life. All of a sudden, here was my mom bringing this thing up that had happened before Alison died, which started to explain in our heads. In my head, it started to make sense because we weren't expecting Alison to take her own life. That sounds silly because you don't expect anyone to take their own life. It felt like as if her life was getting back on track. Mom told us about the fact that this guy had taken advantage. He was an older mental health nurse in the mental health hospital where Alison had been a patient. Alison was 21 and he was in his mid-30s.
He had committed a number of illegal acts with her on the hospital premises. As a result of those acts, Alison had what we would call a crisis pregnancy. An abortion was arranged by the staff from the mental health hospital, and details of it were left off her medical records. We knew nothing of this at that time. Alison was convinced she was in love but you must realize in all of this that her mental health was in such a state that she was being taken advantage of here. She was vulnerable. The guy was able to use her faith because Alison was incredibly religious. He aligned himself to her by saying that he shared the same faith and thought God had brought them together.
He might have thought that was true but his version of the biblical truth is very different from most people and it led him to have unprotected premarital sex on the hospital premises with a vulnerable mental health patient. I don't think anyone whether religious or not would condone that. As a result of that, she had a crisis pregnancy and an abortion, which we didn't know about. It was only when we found these details out almost ten years later that we realized that the date on which she had taken her life would have coincided with one of the birthdays of the aborted child.
Fast forward from Alison taking her life in 1991 to the turn of the millennium in 2000. At this point, we are now in possession of information which we weren't in possession of before. We did what I thought was the right thing to do which was we approached the police and the National Health Service. We said, "We think these things have happened here and we would like you to look into them. This is going to sound terribly cynical but here it is.” We presumed at that point that once we told those people in positions of authority what had happened, they would do everything in their power to uncover it. That was mistake number one.
All we want is improvement. All we want is learning.
As good citizens, we assumed that these people were responsible, that they would want to be accountable and unearth any wrongdoing that had occurred, but they didn't. We didn't know it at that time, but time proved that. For example, I was told one week that Alison's medical records existed and were going to be made available to me. Two weeks later, I was told that they had been destroyed and that happened on two occasions. All of a sudden, we were in this position where we thought we knew something bad had happened, and all the records were being destroyed. It was as if by being honest, upfront with them and saying what we wanted, we had warned them of our intent. They were now taking every opportunity to destroy any evidence of what had happened.
It was only by complete chance that I was doing my own detective work, which I kept from my wife, all my friends and family because they thought I was nuts. I don't blame them for that because they thought, "The police and the NHS will do their job. What are you doing? Don't worry about it." I was saying, "This is not going the way I thought it was going to go. We've told these people bad thing has happened and nothing is being done about it." In fact, the guy who did what he did was still working in the National Health Service six months after we reported this. The chief executive of the National Health Service Trust said, "I can't raise these issues with this guy because it is hearsay. It is just your speculation. This is crazy."
I came across these medical records that still existed which proved beyond doubt what had happened. The medical records that I came across were a copy of the termination certificate with the date and where the abortion had occurred and the doctor that had done it. With the medical records which were kept by Alison's new doctor who was based in South Yorkshire, not the doctor that was based in Carlisle where the records were destroyed, I presented all this evidence to the police at that time and to the National Health Service. I made the mistake of thinking, "Now that they've got that evidence, this is a slam dunk. We are going to get some of these."
For any readers, at no point at any time we were seeking compensation. It was never about that. I was incredibly angry with the guy for obvious reasons and the people that had let this happen. We wanted justice and accountability. There was no malice in this. Don't get me wrong. I've had those fantasies about getting this guy down at a dark alley with a baseball bat as I'm sure anybody normal would. What he did to my sister was terrible but that's not the way that justice happens. You’ve got to get into that violence cycle.
We reached this point where the police had now got all the evidence in front of them of wrongdoing. The NHS had got all the same evidence. I have shared that evidence also with the Coronel and then everything goes cold. We pushed the police. About a year later, after the investigation was first launched, I got this short letter saying, "We're not going to pursue this case because there's a lack of evidence." I was like, "That's strange. How has that happened?" I was still in that mindset where I was thinking, "The police will have done a thorough job. If the Crown Prosecution Service has seen that the evidence isn't good enough, then I presume that's a fact."
What I didn't know and I didn't find out until 2015 was that the police and the NHS had lost all the evidence we gave them. All those medical records that we gave them were misled. It was only when I finally got the police to revisit this case in 2015 that this officer sat there and tried to reassure me that they're doing a brilliant job. I pulled out 30 pieces of documentation which for some reason I had kept in a box in the corner of this loft. I had never got rid of them. I said, "There are all these pieces of information in your file." He was so embarrassed and said, "I haven't got any of that." That was all the information that I had given them back in the year 2000.
They've misled a lot. Everything makes sense with hindsight. What Alison did made sense when I first heard it. In 2015, the reason the investigation failed not made sense. At this point, being the eternal optimist that I am, I thought, "It might be a long time but to me, justice doesn't have a best before date." What the guy did was wrong in 1988. What he did is recognized in UK law as a crime for good reasons. Mental health nurses are not supposed to have sex on hospital premises with patients. It is a no. I thought, "Now, we've got the evidence and the police have admitted that they lost it, let's have another crack and do this right. We can finally get some justice for Alison." I’m far too optimistic.
The police didn't want to take the case up again because they said that the case was old and they didn't see the point in it. They told me that I would have to make a compelling case for this case to be reopened. What I did was I shared all the information with them. I delivered the document after document by hand and took photographs as I was delivering it to the police headquarters in Cumbria. I forced them into a position where they couldn't ignore it. It was only when they finally got all this evidence that they had to admit that the investigation that they told me had undertaken in 2000 wasn't a proper investigation. It had never occurred. I was gobsmacked.
To put that in context, you've told the police that a mental health nurse was having sex with your sister on hospital premises in a publicly funded hospital. Someone in a responsible position of authority and power took advantage of a younger girl who was vulnerable and they decided that's not worth pursuing. I was blown away by that. We pushed and eventually, the door opened. In 2017, nearly 30 years after he committed those crimes under police interview he finally admitted doing what he did on multiple occasions with Alison on the hospital premises. You can see what's happening here. I was getting more optimistic at this point because I was thinking, "Now we've got it and we're here."
We kicked that can so far down the road here. The police didn't want us to do it. The Crown Prosecution Service wants to do it. I lost my job with the NHS at this point because they aren't happy. If you're rocking the boat, they do not like it. We finally arrived where the guy has admitted it under police interview and I was thinking, "This is it. The wheels of justice are finally going to turn and we are going to get something here."
Six months later, the Crown Prosecution Service or the UK body responsible for deciding what crimes get prosecuted and what crimes don't send us a letter saying that even though they now have the evidence of wrongdoing, they did not think the case was in the public interest and would therefore not pursue it. You've got to ask yourself, “If a case about a mental health nurse having sex on hospital premises with vulnerable female patients isn't in the public interest, what is?”
Admitting it is the thing that is wonky about it. Here you are, a person who has no background in this, you have now educated yourself in the process of digging up all this research and you've taken this so far. There's an element of your flesh and blood but at the end of the day, your passion for driving this forward is unbelievable. It speaks to the qualities that you brought to the fight. It was something that came from who you were as a younger lad and who you are continuing to be.
We're all standing on the shoulders of giants. I owe some of this to a very good psychologist, not a National Health Service psychologist. When I was feeling incredibly down and on the point of suicide, I got some mental health help from a private consultant. I remember she is a very nice lady. On the second meeting that we had, she started to dig under some of the things I was saying. I'm going back now to 2015 here. This was at the point where the NHS was trying to get me handed out of it because they didn’t like the fact that I'm bringing up this old case here. I've been open with my employer. I said, "This is what I'm trying to do. You need to be aware of this because there might be some reputational damage to you, but frankly that's not my concern. I just want the truth for my sister."
I sat with this psychologist. I said, "I feel so stupid. This happened nearly 30 years ago and it still sticks in my craw. I still can't deal with the anger that I feel when I think about what happened and the fact that people turned a blind eye because managers, staff and colleagues at the hospital knew what was going on. There were even statements from the police that they’ve seen Alison come up in this tape recorder. She stayed there overnight which was against hospital policy that the mental health nurses slept on the premises. The policy was that you weren't allowed to have any guests in there and so people knew.”
My psychologist said to me, "Brilliant." She worded it much better than I'm going to word it. It was as if somebody turned the light on. She said, "Can you go to your grave not doing what you think needs to be done?" When somebody puts it to you in those terms, it was like, "I'm bound to write. I've got to do this." I've got some fabulous people around me. My wife Debbie has been an absolute rock. When I came home and I said, "Debbie, I decided that I'm going to get this case reopened." She thought I was crackers because I was in the darkest of places I've been.
What I was saying to the people around me who love me was, "Part of the reason I'm in this dark place is that this injustice has happened and I need to deal with it." You tried telling that to people who are concerned about your mental health. You tried telling them that you are now about to pick off a scar from the past and reopen wounds because you think it will heal you. It was healing and cathartic. Writing that book and doing this work has been the best therapy I've ever had but that was a tough sell.
I appreciate what you said there about admiring how far I've pushed. I've got under 4,000 emails in the inbox. Who knows how many bits of paper are flying about all kinds of things? You might tell how to educate myself in the ways of these organizations because I didn't know what I didn't know. By not doing it, I asked myself the question regularly, "Would it have been better if I hadn't done it?" The answer is no. I'll struggle more with my mental health if I hadn't done it.
This is a thing that is powerful because we've been talking about a little bit of this punk mentality and it makes me think of this question that psychologist asks like, "What in your life is worth fighting for?" Everyone should have something in their life that they would want to fight for no matter what. In this instance, this became your fight. It was what you needed to do so that you could ease your pain and that's one of the things that started to uncover. There are a lot of stories on the show. Some of them are not as dark as this, but this is a pretty crazy tale. It comes from this place of having to face the past so you can move forward powerfully.
I'm a big Stephen Covey fan. He is one of the most misquoted management and personal behavior guru ever because people confuse positive thinking with forgetting and ignoring. What they say is, "Keep looking forward. Don't worry about looking back," but we are where we are because of the decisions that we made in the past. Our lives are generally the result of other people's actions. Unless we understand what drove those actions and what motivated them, we'll never move forward. I like the idea that you look at the past but you look at it from the point of view where you want to learn from it and create a better future. That is incredibly powerful.
I have tried, and I'm still trying to turn this into a positive. One of the things I would love for readers to take away from this is the notion of tolerance and forgiveness, because in all of the things that have happened, we have never once said to any of these organizations that we want people sacked or crossed them their jobs or livelihoods. I might have experienced that myself and I know how painful that is. All we want is improvement and learning. One of the greatest problems within all these institutions is that the cultures that exist within them don't allow people to put their hand in the air and say, "I'm sorry, I dropped the ball." Everybody rallies around to become super defensive and that's no good. That's not helpful.
One of the things that come to mind and this is something that alludes to the work that you are doing now, which is better conversations amongst the different organizations, bodies and people start talking about it instead of potentially hushing up because it is something that could be embarrassing or they don't want to reveal. Instead, let's have a healthy conversation. How can we prevent this in the future? How can we have better dialogue around having a better environment so we all can live better together?
That's what it is. This comes right back to this point about work, life and society, being a work in progress. When we look at our public services and see how poorly they are now, you guys got the same problem on your side of the pond. Everyone is chasing meaningless targets and trying to manage their reputations. We're past that point out. It is a shallow, hollow world if these organizations think that we still believe them. I would have so much more respect for them if they said, "We dropped the ball and we're human. We will continue to drop the ball and this will happen again. When it happens again, we'll be open about it and admit it. We'll try and learn from it. We'll keep trying to get better because we're all human and we're all trying to swim in the same direction ultimately."
If I was to tell you that in 2018, the NHS paid out £2.4 billion in damages, and it has on its balance sheet over £85 billion in liabilities for problems here. These are all estimates. Over 12,000 people a year die in its care because of the management culture which means people are unable to be open. That's gobsmacking and devastating. It is not just the billions of pounds. You think of the impact on lives, like mine and Alison's. All those people are out there looking for justice.
All they want are answers, apologies and to be treated like decent people, but every time we try to approach these organizations and have a conversation, we get a wall of bureaucracy, another process and a form to fill in. All they want is a conversation. They want to sit across the table from somebody and ask them questions like, "What would they think if it was their sister? How would they feel?" These are decent people. You would meet them in a pub or down the street. These are not people that go to work to do an evil thing. They get sucked into these cultures which don't allow them to be decent and human.
You made me think of this. Institutions are out there trying to save face but in reality, most of the average people are fighting for fairness. That's something that always comes up for me around this feeling. We all want to have a fair shake and to be treated well. We want to feel that when we want something, we feel it is due to us and it is fair to ask for it. We're going to get the conversation and being treated with respect.
Fairness is a beautiful word, but it's devalued often by so many people.
Those are the things we're looking. No matter where it is in the world that we're looking for it. That's when things get a little out of balance when we feel like we're not getting that and being treated fairly. It is an interesting conversation. I feel like there's so much we could dig into. I want to ask one question. What is one book that has had a real impact on you? You've already said your own book, which I can understand. What is another book that is important to you?
There's a guy who wrote a book called The Halo Effect. He is a professor, Phil Rosenzweig. He debunks a lot of the myths about management cultures from an organizational and a management point of view. That for me was a real eye-opener. The reason it was an eye-opener was I read it and thought, "I'm not nuts. I'm right. The world is crazy." I know that sounds like a very self-centered thing to say but people often tell me I'm staying in a crazy world and that's fine. Before, when you talked about fairness which is a beautiful word but it is devalued so often by so many people. Fairness is a great word. On a personal level, there's a fabulous book by an American author called Barbara Freese, which is Coal: A Human History. That is a brilliant read. When I'm delving into poetry, it’s William Blake.
I've been a fan of William Blake since I was a kid. I did a lot of work with his poems.
I would leave my sister's headstone as it is out of respect for my mom, but I would like to replace my sister's headstone with one that has one of William Blake's poems on which is called The Garden of Love. It is a short, beautiful and brilliant poem, which a lot of the people who are experts on Blake don't look too closely at it. What William Blake is saying in that poem is, "I might not be as religious as you think." I like that. "I went to the Garden of Love to see what I never had seen. A chapel was built in the midst where I used to play on the green. The gates of this chapel were shut. 'Thou shalt not' was written over the door, so I turned to the Garden of Love that so many sweet flowers bore. I saw it was filled with graves and tombstones where flowers should be. Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds and binding with briars all my joys and desires." It is one of my favorites.
It is a great way for us to end. I can't thank you enough for sharing all you've shared. I feel like we still touched the surface. There's so much that can be shared. People should run out and get the book. It is a great read. Where can people find and reach out to you?
HIPSS is the organization that I am trying to get off the ground, which I'm hoping will become a movement. They can find me at HIPSS.org.uk. This is just on one and we'll get another episode. Come and join the forum. Share your thoughts and ideas. I'm on Twitter, @TomInCumbria. You can find all those details on the website. My email address and phone number are on the website. I like to make myself visible and play with an open hand. You're not going to make yourself known and that would be great.
Thank you again. This has been so enjoyable and insightful. Thank you, readers, for coming on the journey with us.
Thank you, Tony.
- Lions, Liars, Donkeys and Penguins: The Killing of Alison
- The Grapes of Wrath
- National Health Service
- The Halo Effect
- Coal: A Human History
- @TomInCumbria - Twitter
About Tom Bell
Helping enlightened organizations reduce harm, save money and retain staff by developing trusting cultures in which ethical blindspots are acknowledged and learning replaces blame. Trusted, trusting, and engaged employees, provide safer, more effective, and more efficient services.
My unique combination of lived events, personal experience, and professional qualifications give me unrivaled insight into ethical fading and wilful blindness in organizational cultures, and the resulting human and financial costs. I use the scars I have acquired, and the knowledge I have attained as a force for positive change. I approach this sensitive topic from a position of great empathy and compassion.
- In May 2020 I self-published a book about the events and abuse that led to the suicide of my sister Alison in 1991,
- Early in 2020, I contributed to a publication called, "When Things go Wrong", the report was written by a UK based organization called Justice, who campaign for improvements to the UK’s justice system,
- In 2018 I contributed to a national review into standards for NHS Directors, the review was led by Tom Kark QC,
- In 2017 I was hounded out of a career in the NHS for speaking truth to power, standing up for patients and staff and ultimately whistleblowing to the regulator about unsafe practices. I would do the same again.
I led a national project with NHS England developing a fit for purpose patient-facing digital offer - I Co-founded England's first Rural Health Forum - Brought telehealth to North Cumbria in a partnership with NHS Scotland - Developed a cross-sector approach to recruitment in Cumbria - Created the first online directory of secondary healthcare services in the UK.
I am a systems thinker and former small business advisor with wide experience of the private, public and third-sectors. I think laterally to develop productive partnerships. I understand meaningful brand building. I have excellent reasoning, thinking and facilitation skills and am versed in data interpretation. I Informed the setting-up of the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship and sat on the board of the Northern Leadership Academy. I have an excellent track record in relationship building & authentic stakeholder engagement as well as a great deal of successful programme & project management experience. I was the first member of the CIM in Cumbria to achieve Chartered Marketer status.
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