Waiting is one of healthcare’s core experiences.  It is there in the time it takes to access services; through the days, weeks, months or years needed for diagnoses; in the time that treatment takes; and in the elongated time-frames of recovery, relapse, remission and dying.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, our project opens up what it means to wait in and for healthcare by examining lived experiences, representations and histories of delayed and impeded time.

In an era in which time is lived at increasingly different and complex tempos, Waiting Times looks to understand both the difficulties and vital significance of waiting for practices of care.

Our work is divided across four themes.  Click on these for more information.







You can find out about all the work we are doing right here, including details of workshops, conferences, academic papers and publications and public engagement events.

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Watchful Waiting

We’re investigating modes of waiting that entail reflexive understandings of time passing as potentially ‘curative’, or productive of development and change.

This is being done under two related work strands.

  1. ‘Watchful Waiting as a practice of Care’ develops resources for understanding the value and significance of waiting in healthcare by reconceptualising it as a social practice beyond the clinical encounter.

    We will unpack the heteronormative, gendered, and raced assumptions embedded in the figure who watchfully waits for psychological, social or political change, using a series of contemporary case studies drawn from literature, social art practice, and activist politics to show up the relations between power, care and time.

    We will consider how care as a form of waiting becomes classed, feminised and racialised – made visible when extended to lives characterised as ‘non-productive’.

    We particularly want to situate the ‘watchful waiting’ employed within healthcare within broader social and cultural practices of relational endurance.

  2. ‘Watchful Waiting in General Practice’ investigates the temporalities of care within general practice.

    We will be working alongside staff at Well Street Medical Practice, Hackney, London, and Wyndham House Surgery, Silverton, Devon, to find out how GPs use and understand ‘watchful waiting’ in their daily practice. We are interested in how GPs deal with the dilemmas of offering safe and timely care within a context in which they are often the only service within the broader social care system in which the door is permanently open.

    Historical and interview-based data emerging from Dr. Raluca Soreanu’s Wellcome-funded study of Balint Groups, based in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, will also inform the study.

Waiting in Late Times

Waiting in Late Times explores how temporal experience is represented and managed in a contracted yet ongoing present.

We’ll investigate how particular conceptualisations of waiting – ones that easily become detached from the promise of waiting for – have emerged from specific cultural, intellectual, and sociohistorical conditions of European and US modernity.

We’ll do this under three related work strands.

  1. For ‘Waiting in Modern Times (1860-present)’, we will uncover how distinctive forms of waiting that emerge in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries become entangled with particular European and US experiences and theorisations of modernity.We’ll look at the distended temporalities of literary modernism; writing concerned with waiting and war; phenomenologies and theorisations of extended temporality; and archival materials on shared practices such as queuing, striking, civil disobedience, and the impact of new technologies on daily life.

    We’ll track how significant aspects of modern and contemporary experience are formed by the uncertain promises of waiting.

    We’ll  situate conceptual accounts of waiting historically,  using literary critical methods to explore how temporal representations resist or depart from linear chronologies.

    This will enrich dominant philosophical accounts of waiting as a form of solitary, existential crisis by using literature, cultural representations, and shared practices to elucidate waiting’s intersubjectivity and dependence – or the possibilities and impossibilities of waiting with others – that are core to experiences in healthcare.

  2. ‘Management of Waiting in General Practice (1948-present)’ will analyse how waiting has been politicised and incorporated into healthcare management between 1900 and the present to contextualise how we have come to conceive of waiting in ‘modern’ mass medicine in the UK.By reading policy, economic, and management literatures alongside oral histories, popular literature, newspapers, cartoons, and television and radio programmes, we’ll trace how perceptions of waiting have shifted for patients, doctors, and various publics.

    We’ll also open up a broader history of ‘managed waiting’, examining how medical professionals, state bodies, and NGOs regulated temporalities to achieve efficient and quality care before ‘Evidence-Based Medicine’.

  3. ‘Life Writing, Time, and End of Life Care’ will investigate the recent publishing phenomenon of life writing concerned with end of life temporalities, using literary critical methods to untangle what it means to experience and represent time wrested from its normative structure.We’ll position this genre in relation to discourses of waiting from 1860 to the present, and explore the significance of its emergence within contemporary multicultural and multi-faith societies.

    We’ll be working in close collaboration with individuals, carers, and healthcare practitioners at Hospiscare.


The Psychic Life of Time

The Psychic Life of Time investigates the timing of mental healthcare.

In partnership with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust – a specialist NHS trust with a long history of pioneering psychodynamic approaches to mental health and emotional wellbeing – we are investigating how time can promote psychological and emotional change, especially for young people.

We are working with mental health practitioners across the services for children, young people and families, to understand how time functions in their work. We are co-producing narratives with young people and their carers about how time shapes their mental health, and their lives more broadly. We are collaborating with the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) to better understand a highly charged issue for the trans community – the timing of prescribing hormone blockers to delay the onset of puberty – that is constantly negotiated by young people, their carers and practitioners in the service.

The Psychic Life of Time is producing a detailed and nuanced account of the way that time can operate as a mode of care in mental health treatment, and in support for transitions in emotional life and identity.

Speaking of Waiting

Speaking of Waiting is a publicly engaged series of events, workshops and interventions designed in collaboration with patients, clinicians and other healthcare staff.

The aim is to generate new narratives of experiences of time and duration in relation to healthcare provision, illness and wellbeing.

We are working with GP clinics in rural Devon and inner-city London, as well as the Hospicecare day hopsice in Honiton, and the Tavistock and Portman Foundation Trust.

We will also build up an online archive of shared stories.  So please sign up to our mailing list for information of when and how you can contribute your own story to the project through this website.

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