Actress takes to stage at medical convention to share personal healthcare experiences
How to break bad news – in a better way … A life coach and actress best known for her work on TV shows including Casualty and Doctors is to address a national medical convention to share her personal story of her late husband’s healthcare treatment – and advise neuro-specialists on how to improve their communication with patients and their families.
Holly Matthews is also a vlogger, speaker, qualified life coach and founder of positive mindset courses and workshops and will be joining speakers at the British Neuro-oncology Society (BNOS) Annual Meeting to deliver her presentation on ‘Communication with patients and relatives: how to do it well. A wife’s perspective’.
The meeting is organised by Mr Paul Grundy, BNOS secretary and Consultant Neurosurgeon, University Hospital Southampton, and supported by Aesculap Academia, the educational arm of B. Braun Medical Ltd.
Mr Grundy invited Holly Matthews to the event and Brain Tumour Charity, the platinum sponsors, are supporting her attendance. This will be the first time public speaker Holly has addressed a medical training and educational conference and will see the mum of two sharing her family’s healthcare experiences after her husband Ross Blair was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in 2014 and during his treatment before his death last year aged just 32.
Holly, who has also appeared in Byker Grove and Waterloo Road, said: “After Ross became ill, all my work had to come closer to home and I began focusing more on developing my role as a personal business and mindset coach to female entrepreneurs and creatives.
“As an actress you’ll go for hundreds of auditions a year and maybe get a handful, so you’ve got to be resilient and able to bounce back and I found these were very transferable skills when putting together my positivity and self-development online courses and workshops.
“Body language is important to me as an actress and I am probably more heightened to it as a result and so bad body language bothers me. I work with CEOs to teach them presentation skills that help them to create a better impression and more favourable outcomes.
“When we were told Ross had Grade 4 level of brain cancer, the consultant was slouched in his chair. I was prepared for the worst news, but not the way he delivered it. All I could focus on was how he was sat and the way he spoke.
“I am a staunch defender of the NHS, and I must stress that not all consultants were like this. Dr David Spooner in Birmingham, for example – Ross was autistic so often consultants would talk to me rather than him, but he always spoke directly to Ross, and I was always struck by his genuine and authentic manner.
“Clearly I’m no wallflower and can hold my own in situations but it made me think about those people who can’t – an elderly lady being told terrible news about her husband or being told in medical jargon what is going on with his condition and treatment.
“I’m the sort of person who will go straight online and look everything up but someone lacking confidence might just crumble when faced with language that’s not clear and straight-forward and not feel able to ask questions.
“That will be my message at the conference. While acknowledging that consultants are hugely busy and would never intend to deliver news badly or maliciously, I do feel some simply need to be able to ‘people’ better.
“That first consultant might tell hundreds of people bad news in a week, but this was the first time my family and I had heard and been impacted and affected by it – it should not have been delivered in a matter-of-fact way.
“I just want to share how some slight tweaks and simple alterations because how you sit, stand and your tone communicating news can make all the difference to the patient – and the worried relatives – on the receiving end.”
The British Neuro-oncology Society (BNOS) event will take place at University of Winchester, Hampshire, between Wednesday 4 and Friday 6 July.
Other speakers at the event, organised by Mr Paul Grundy and supported by Aesculap Academia, will include Professor Garth Cruikshank on the new NICE Guidelines, and primary and secondary brain tumours; Professor Damien Weber from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland on proton beam therapy and European and UK indications and practices, and NHS England’s clinical lead for patient centred care Professor Alf Collins reflecting on the ethical, practical and legal imperatives of shared decision making.
Mr Grundy said: “While it is of course vital we hear from national thought leaders, researchers,
clinicians and other healthcare professionals, I am very pleased to be welcoming a renowned speaker like Holly who will be able to offer a personal perspective and a reminder about the importance of putting, and keeping, people at the centre of healthcare.”
Aesculap Academia Business Development Manager Aynsley Pix quoted: “We are proud to support this major event, which ensures that all those working in neuro-oncology in the UK meet to learn, discuss, and share new findings.”
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