Sometimes, William shares his writing with us. During one Friday cafe session in December 2019, he read out some of the notes he'd written during our weekly conversation. I asked him to read it out again so I could capture both him and his writing. This Video is the result:
“Right. I’ve got the ‘Go Ahead’
I’m sitting in The Conversation Café, just four of us, the stalwarts of the gang. As I write the conversation concerns the fate of the airfield at Colerne, mixed with the uses and abuses of latrines, of fertility and self-entertainment.
You need that connection but its too complicated. It all boils down to the MOOC. And selling digital courses and fields coming together and the skills are only as good as the people using them.
Then, who would be the storyteller? What we need is the story. The marketing. Its all in the marketing”
Primary Care Modernisation - with the story of the good chef - William shared this piece about a year ago I think. It stuck in my mind at a time I when I was meeting with Alan Rayner regularlyto explore Natural Inclusion. I don't know why but this piece has located itself in my memory alongside the time when I included myself in a meeting in Debenhams cafe between Alan and William as they discussed an article Alan was writing for the British Holistic Medical Journal. I found the style of this piece intriguing in the way he weaves storytelling alongside William's professional analysis from the field of healthcare based on his many years experience as a General Practitioner in the health service.
Wisdom - Do I Own It? - Written in July 2018 following a cafe meeting in which I experienced high tention within relational dynamic between us we discussed power and vulnerability. So much so that William resonded immediately by writing this piece and sending it with the attached email:
Thank you all for the fascinating conversation this morning. I came straight home and wrote the attached - which we may or may not wish to discuss next week!
We didn't return to discuss it much the following week, but there is something in this that I need to understand further.
Who am I to Speak of Love - This piece he wrote in July 2017 for his column in the British holistic Medical Journal. (Note the reference to 'formidable women').
William & Jack
These are unprecedented times. We are in the midst of a global challenge and a journey into the unknown. We sense the changes that we face may mean that life, as we have known it, may never be the same again. This will be very unsettling for many of us yet it also presents us with an opportunity to rethink our values and to create a new story. A story of inclusivity and positive connections with self, others, communities, societies and our planet.
Into this changing world, let’s also take the continuity of the wisdom of ages, the courage of science and the energy of the collective. Together let's bring holistic and humanistic healthcare to the forefront to help create a more resilient world.
ON HIS RETIREMENT FROM THE BRITISH HOLISTIC MEDICAL ASSOCIATION:
And goodbye and thank you to Dr William House who has retired from the board of trustees after many years as a trustee and Chair.
William’s overriding interest was, and is, in the meaning and use of words, both in his own clinical practice within his local community and in the context of the BHMA’s wider remit. Defining what “holism” IS, what it really means in a medical/healing context, was the torch he carried for almost seven years as Chair.
His great insight was that holistic medicine/healing has no single simplistic definition but embraces a constellation of meanings. He defined, or helped define, with the strong and cohesive group of trustees he built up, some core attributes - “medicine as if people matter” and “re-imagining healthcare” are good examples. In his vision holism involves relationship and being a holistic practitioner requires us to be: balanced; community-minded; compassionate; connected; empowered; integrated; intuitive; meaningful; resilient; self-caring and wise. This formed the dimensions of holism which we explored on our website in previous years which we hope to update and re-introduce on our current website.
His unique contribution was the emphasis that language and words matter. They are at the heart of clinical exchanges, social exchanges and professional exchanges. Words matter because they allow and facilitate social interactions and community spirit - that holistic or any good clinical practice is rooted in the psycho-social community in which it occurs. William believes in a living “coherent community” where the lofty ideals of holism take expression at a local, individual and personal level. We are sure he was a great GP.
For many years whilst an active GP, William wrote a regular column “from the front-line of primary healthcare” for the BHMA’s Journal of Holistic Healthcare. This morphed into a more personal and wide-ranging column on his retirement from that role, and is still on-going.
Above all, William retires leaving the BHMA deeply grounded in the core principles of holism for which we are very grateful.
Words from William:
I have very much enjoyed my 16 years of involvement with the BHMA, as member, trustee and more recently as Chair. I was asked to write a brief biographical piece for this BHMA members newsletter. I do this with pleasure, mixed with a little sadness. Here, I describe beliefs that informed my priorities during my tenure as Chair of trustees. Members can make up their own minds on whether I have achieved them or not!
My first contact with the BHMA was in 2002. I had been working as a general practitioner in Keynsham, near Bristol, since 1980 and had become deeply frustrated by the limitations of mainstream medicine as practised at the time. The key problem, as I saw it, was the excessive focus on often very expensive technological fixes for ill-health, to the exclusion of approaches that take a ‘holistic view’ of the whole person, their circumstances and particularly their relationships with other people and society. The BHMA had been grappling with these issues since it’s foundation in 1983 but was struggling to reach a broad audience within the population. In a critical essay entitled Holistic Health and the BHMA from July 2003, I suggested that the BHMA journal (at that time entitled ‘Holistic Health’) seemed “to address an audience of already committed ‘holists’, providing ‘food’ for those already hungry for holism.” This was clearly at the expense of seeking new audiences for the holistic message. The paper also emphasised that the medical establishment can quite easily sideline holistic understandings and approaches (which are helpful at relatively low cost) by encouraging the common association of ‘holistic’ medicine with ‘Complementary and Alternative Medicine’ (CAM). Although the two often coincide, CAM is not always holistic, and can incur relatively high costs to the patient. I have been keen that this distinction should be understood and for the nature of holistic medicine to be celebrated in its own right.
A second priority for my tenure as Chair has been to highlight the importance of stress in the genesis of illness. In a previous essay entitled Humanity in Clinical Practice from November 2002. I argued that much of our contemporary illness is stress-related and generated by our materialistic and consumerist society. In this situation, a healthcare service with the same underlying problematic features as the society it is trying to help will always struggle to be as effective as it might otherwise have been! “Physician, first heal thyself!”
The latest issue of the BHMA Journal (Spring 2020) contains the following note from William on the language of caring:
In this video William House is talking about what matters to him, at a Friday morning Breakfast Cafe in the QuEST Centre (Quality Education Support and Training), in Bath on the 12th April 2013