Sunday, 10 January 2010

Mandy buys us all a drink, but there's still a shortage of Zimmer frames.

What a great week for the senses. No sooner had we got back to work after Christmas than many of us were confined to barracks by the extraordinary snow fall on Monday night, more of which later. Also on Monday, I received confirmation that one of my PhD students had got through the examination process and was to be recommended for the award of a Doctorate. Congratulations all round, particularly as this student is an academic member of our School of Nursing & Midwifery here at Salford. It is an unfortunate fact of life that despite representing the largest group of all health care professions, there are precious few Nurses and Midwives who have gained their PhD.

In 1950, my role model Virginia Henderson, decided to collect together all the published research undertaken by nurses. The collected works filled just two slim volumes. As a profession we have come a long way since, but there is a long way to go. For example, it was estimated that in 1997, there were less than 300 nurses in the UK who had a PhD. While this number has trebled the current number of nurses and midwives with a PhD has to be put into a context of some 600,000 nurses currently registered in the UK. We are looking forward in 2010 to having the first Midwife with a PhD in the history of the School.

However, if Mandy has his way nurses and midwives with a PhD might well be a thing of the past. At least 80 UK Universities face being forced to abandon postgraduate research as funding is concentrated on centres of global excellence. If the proposals are accepted,  Doctoral research would be restricted to about 30 Universities where there are centres of high specialist science based research. The proposals are expected in a review due to be published shortly by Professor Adrian Smith, formerly of University of London, and director of research in Lord Mandelson’s department. So I was interested to read yesterday that Imperial College, London, a likely ‘winner’ in these proposed changes, reported that a team of their researchers have developed an alcohol substitute that mimics the effects of drink, but doesn’t give rise to drunkenness or hangover (?!) and the effects of which can be instantly switched off by taking a pill. Hmm….

…Of course alcohol misuse is a big problem. Some 945,223 people were admitted to hospital with an alcohol-related diagnosis in 2008/09 - 47% higher than the 644,185 people taken to hospital in 2004/05. Although the figures include patients with alcohol-related conditions such as liver disease, some cancers and alcohol poisoning, they do not include those injured while drunk or the victims of drink-related violence.

But back to the snow. It came out of the early morning sky on Tuesday. I lay in bed watching it fall but by 5am I was up and outside busy clearing the snow from the drive, vainly hoping to get to work. However, by 9am I gave up and worked from home for the next two days. Well it was more working and digging. By Thursday morning I was exhausted, but at least could walk to the station and catch a train into Salford. It was good to get to work and meet other colleagues.

Having got myself mobile again, I felt much better, but I did feel for the physiotherapy manager at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. There is a shortage of Zimmer frames in Lancashire. Since the beginning of December there has been a 75% increase in the number of patients being treated for falls and injuries caused by the snow and ice. This equated to some 550 extra patients being seen, treated and discharged. The consequence of this increase in patient numbers was an absolute shortage of Zimmer frames to give out to patients. Pleas for the return of old Zimmer frames punctuated local radio programmes all week.

Despite the difficulties the snow brought and the forced changes to my plans this week, I have been amused by the endless mental images of what might have been the consequence of an early resolution of the Zimmer frame famine – especially as our car parks were, up until Friday afternoon, still covered by 18 inches of snow.


However, the last word has to go to the story I eventually resisted using for this blog. The news from Northern Ireland caught my attention, and made me think about one of my all time favourite films  The Graduate. For a short while I was almost seduced into thinking about weaving the various Mrs Robinson/young lovers/students/politics/older people story lines into a commentary on the state of the UK higher education system. But resisted. So here’s to you Mrs Robinson, there's no need of Zimmer frames for you!