Free Church Healthcare Care

Lessons learnt from World War One

Photo by  James Harris  on  Unsplash

Amid the destruction and chaos of WW1, and in response to the injuries sustained innovations in medicine and surgical techniques led to much that we take for granted today.

The need for cleanliness in caring for the wounded, the development of blood transfusions, the idea of triage ( the order of treatment dependant on need) are all common place now – if you go to Accident and Emergency Department you will see the Triage Nurse first who will prioritise your care. The National Blood Transfusion Service is now an integral part of our NHS. There was the development of the Thomas splint, for dealing with broken legs and of course the gas mask!

The words Shell Shock were used for those who were suffering from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - the verbal expression of trauma.

Those who declared themselves unable to cope, through shell or combat shock or devastating loss of comrades, were generally treated as malingerers rather than victims.

Few doctors, with the notable exception of W.H Rivers and Arthur Brock at Craiglockhart Hospital for victims of shell shock, explored the verbal expression of trauma. Before 1917, treatment for shell shock involved being forbidden to talk about the war. One officer, treated by Rivers at Craiglockhart, said ‘that it was obvious to him that memories such as those he had brought with him from the war could never be forgotten. Nevertheless, since he had been told by everyone that it was his duty to forget them he had done his utmost in this direction. It was felt that silence settled the mind, and that unpleasant memories could be replaced by means of pleasant activities such as walking and sports. An advertisement in the Pall Mall Gazette (8 May 1919) read: ‘So bury all those unpleasant memories in Dora’s waiting grave … and get your Austin Reed straw hat to signalise the event’ [DORA was the Defence of the Realm Act].

A poem by Cecil Lewis demonstrat1es this aspect of war and reminds us all of not only PTSD, but other mental health issues in society today:

War is never over

Though the treaties may be signed

The memories of the battles

Are forever in our minds

War is never over

So when you welcome heroes home

Remember in their minds they hold

Memories known to them alone

War is never over

All veterans know this well

Now other wars bring memories back

of their own eternal hell

War is never over

For I knew world war two

And I'll not forget the battles

Or the nightmares that ensue

War is never over

Those left home to wait know this

For many still are waiting

It was their farewell kiss

War is never over

Though we win the victory

Still in our minds the battles

No freedom is not free

Revd Debbie Hodge
Secretary for Healthcare Chaplaincy, Free Churches
Project Officer NHS Chaplaincy Project

‘Learning from deaths’ – guidance development day for NHS trusts


Thursday 2 November, 10.00am - 4.30pm – Kia Oval, London

NHS England is holding an event in November 2017, which may be of interest to staff working in chaplaincy services in trusts across England. It will be of particular interest to chaplaincy staff who have supported families and carers who have lost a loved one in NHS commissioned care, whose death has been subject to a review or investigation.

The event is part of the Learning from Deaths’ programme, which was established to ensure that the recommendations contained in the CQC’s ‘Learning, candour and accountability’ report are implemented in a clear and structured way. 

The event is one of two that will inform the co-production of new guidance for trusts to improve engagement with families and carers, so that they know what to expect from the investigation process. The aim of the guidance will be to ensure timely, transparent and compassionate contact with families and carers who’ve lost loved ones in NHS commissioned care.

The event, on 2 November, will primarily involve people working in trusts who are involved in the investigation process and supporting families/carers in these circumstances - some family members and carers with lived experience will also be present.  The day will focus on the key issues already identified in the CQC report. It will also highlight feedback from families and carers gathered at an event held on 1 November. It will examine what good practice should look like; how we can embed it across NHS Trusts; and what support and/or training would be needed.

If you would like more information about the event for staff working in trusts or to sign up for a place please go to the NHS England website or email

Free Church Chaplains Study Day


‘Meeting the challenge of a Major Incident’


Tuesday 7th November 2017, 10:30-15:30,

10:00 am for Coffee/Tea

Free Churches House, 27 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HH

The study day and lunch provided is at no cost to attendees.

Free Church Health Care Chaplains are invited to join the study day at Free Churches House on 7th November 2017.

The theme of the day is ‘Meeting the challenge of a Major Incident’, and we have been asked if we would share insights from the arena of Health Care with those from Higher Education and the Prison Service, as Chaplains in public institutions are often called upon to support and care for individuals, and institutions at the time of major incident or crisis.

We will spend the morning sharing updates and concerns in Health Care, colleagues from Higher Education and the Prison service will join us for lunch.

The aim of the afternoon is to explore processes and practices in the different sectors with a view to sharing best practice and developing a dialogue of support and ongoing development.

 Please find click here for details programme. I would be very grateful if you could register with Thandar ( so that we can ensure we have enough lunch and enough chairs!

 We look forward to seeing you on 7th November.

Debbie Hodge

Secretary for Healthcare Chaplaincy, Free Churches Group