Sunday, 17 January 2010

Stories of Schizophrenia, Science, Swiss Chocolate and Mob Rule

I have for a long time now complained loudly whenever I have come across some one being referred to as a Schizophrenic. Schizophrenia is a disease not a person. Last week I sent another email to the BBC when they announced that a Schizophrenic mum, who we now know is called Aisling, stabbed her daughter, Chloe, 52 times. Aisling was suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia at the time. This is a tragic story told of events that occurred some 7 years ago, but which, for a number of reasons, has only now been reported on. There were the usual accusations levied at individual professionals, a social worker and psychiatrist in this case, and the various agencies involved were found to be wanting in a number of respects. Refreshingly, the Manchester Evening News, in their coverage of the story, steered well clear of referring to Aisling in any other way than as a Mother. No condemnation and no reductionist and patronizing personal pathologising. In what was an account about a very sad and tragic occurrence, this approach was at least a one that properly reflected the sensibility and humanity of all of those involved.

It is a shame that the same cannot be said about the governments Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. I am talking of course about the latest twist in the Swine Flu scandal. It beggars belief that over half of the SAGE group (11 out of the 20 members) have done work for or have a link to the pharmaceutical industry. Many of these people have long established links through the research they have undertaken as part of their work at a University. Many of these people have been paid sums of money ranging from £500 for a lecture to £100,000 for a directorship. No wonder Mandy is stamping his foot and threatening to stop funding much University research. GSK are likely to be the greatest beneficiaries of the preparations undertaken for swine flu. In July 2009 the UK Government was predicting up to 65,000 deaths from swine flu. To date there have been some 251 deaths. Unsurprisingly, the Government is now busy trying to off load nearly one billion pounds worth of unwanted swine flu vaccine.

As some of the more astute readers among you will have gathered, I have been reading the Daily Mail again. It was the only free English language newspaper on the Swiss Air flight I took this week to get to Budapest. There was little snow in Budapest, but it was minus 7c for much of the time. I was there working on a bid with colleagues for a £300,000 project from the life long learning EU funding stream. We were interested to build upon previous work a group of us had done looking at the role of academics who facilitate learning in and from clinical practice. It was a fascinating discussion. There were many differences in approach across Europe. For example, in the Czech Republic, nurse tutors worked for up to 6 hours a week with their students in practice, maintain clinical loads, and despite being employed by their university, are very much part of the clinical team where as in Romania, university lectures seldom met with students when they were out in practice – perhaps has something to do with many of these lecturers were doctors. They may well have been busy sorting out the swine flue pandemic.
Another really good thing about Swiss Air is those mini bars of Swiss chocolate they bring round at every opportunity, its lovely stuff. One needed a good blood sugar level upon arrival at Manchester airport on Saturday. The airport had chosen to upgrade the arrivals and passport hall this weekend. There were only four desks open, instead of the normal 14. I arrived to join a queue of 2000 other passengers. It took an hour and 15 minutes to get through passport control. The flight from Budapest was one hour 45 minutes. What I found frightening about this experience was the regular wave or anger and frustration that swept through this mass of people. People were hot, tired, needing to get their luggage, go to the toilet and so on. It was the constant apology for the delay that seemed to particularly anger people. Clearly people wanted their cake today and not tomorrow. And although I don’t intend this blog to be focused on food, if anyone has been to the newly renovated Pitcher and Piano (now called Barbirolli) – I hear it now features jazz, blues and acoustic live music- perhaps they could let me know if it is worth a visit.