Sunday, 23 May 2010

Bath, China, Forbidden Words and Chicken Feet

The City of Bath was the venue for this year’s Council of Deans of Health Retreat. It was an inspirational setting. The city was first established as a spa resort with the by the Romans. They built the baths that have made the City famous. The hot springs that fed these baths are the only ones to be found in the UK. The City of Bath became a World Heritage Site in 1987. Although I have been reminded that this is a nursing and midwifery blog and food features too often, so I won’t be saying anything about the food at the CoD Retreat (although the Wild Mushroom Risotto was possibly as good a mine) Bath does have food traditions that are linked to health.

It was Thomas Guidott who in 1668 set up practice in Bath. He was interested in the curative properties of the Bath waters and wrote: A discourse of Bathe, and the hot waters there. Bath has also lent its name to one other distinctive recipe: the Bath Oliver – the dry baked biscuit invented by Dr William Oliver. He was a Doctor at the Mineral Water Hospital and was an early anti-obesity campaigner. He wrote the wonderfully entitled paper: Practical Essay on the Use and Abuse of warm Bathing in Gluty Cases.

It was a very good retreat, if a rather sobering one. Much time and debate was spent on working through the possible implications of the policy changes arising from the recent election of the coalition Government. It is clear that both the HEI and NHS were likely to be affected in a negative way and that both sectors faced some tough times ahead. As health care professionals and particularly Nurses, we caught in the twin headlights of both areas. David Brindle, from the Guardian newspaper provided a very insightful view of the new administration and the likely direction of travel of policy and practice. He didn’t use the phrase Direction of Travel of course, as this is one of some 200 words that have now been forbidden in the lexicon of the new coalition. It appears there are many Civil Servants busy re-writing policy statements in order to erase the use of these words, and some amusement was to be found in the presentations of speakers as these words were highlighted in red.

There was little amusement in the feedback report of the work undertaken to improve the image of nursing. Despite extensive, and one would guess expensive research, little that was new was reported. The solution to our problems appeared to resolve the development of a web site called we.nurse.com. Colleagues sitting at my table thought it might be misconstrued as the web site for continent nurses, while others thought the research team were taking the p**s. Colleagues from Scotland reminded the speaker that they battle every day with being called the wee nurse and this site would be unlikely to help them win the fight. Given the context of improving the image of nursing, the presentation was paradoxical, ill-informed, and out of touch with new forms of communication. Hopefully the programme will be on the list of those to be cut.

Friday saw our colleagues from China attending the University and School. On a brilliant summers day 30 College Presidents and Senior Academics from across China came to Salford to find out more about what we could do together in the future. The day started with a welcome by our VC followed by a brilliant presentation of our work from me. As always there was a chicken included in the powerpoint. Given the place in Chinese culture of the Rooster I did think about the wisdom of this, but felt there wouldn’t be a problem. China has a population of over 1.3 billion people, and they consume 4.7 billion chickens a year! In Chinese cuisine, chicken feet are often served as an option at restaurants – but this is not a food blog.

Our colleagues were then able to see our facilities and like other visitors, were impressed by the METI men and the possibilities for education and training this resource presented. The China Nurse Fund is keen to facilitate qualified nurses coming to the School to undertake Master levels programmes. We were expecting a small group to start in September this year, but this has now had to be postponed because of changes to visa rules imposed six weeks ago. However, a number of areas for collaborative working and research were identified before the delegation left for the almost must do Manchester United Tour at Old Trafford.