Sunday, 20 June 2010

Solicitors, Service Users and Concrete Sheep

I was in Islington this week, attending the latest Mental Health Academics UK group meeting. This has to be one of the best groups in the mental health nursing world. Many of the leading contributors to contemporary thinking on what makes for an effective mental health nurse and how we prepare individuals for this role were there.

Coming home, I sat opposite a solicitor who spent much of the two hour journey on his Black banana shouting at one of his staff. The unfortunate victim of this mans wrath was a subordinate who had received 9 emails from a customer about a deal that was aimed at establishing a line of credit, and apparently he hadn’t responded to any of these emails. I am glad it wasn’t me on the other end of the phone. There wasn’t much I felt I could learn from Clive’s management approach or his interpersonal skills, but I could connect with his notion that customers are important and that to ignore them was likely to only result in disaster for everyone.

Coincidently, I was sitting on the train peer reviewing a paper that looked at Consumer Participation in Australian mental health services. Sadly, the paper wasn’t very good and I was struck by the ‘political correctness’ in the approach being reported upon. I was uncomfortable with what I was reading and whilst rhetoric is at times, very useful, this paper depressed me.

I had this in mind as this week the School had two important ‘customer’ events. The first was the inaugural service user, carer, practitioner conference – the theme was compassion and care. Partly the conference was our contribution to recognizing and celebrating National Carers Week, but partly it was the realization of a long held ambition of our Service User and Carer Group in the School. This group celebrates its fifth anniversary as a group. Their contribution tour Schools life has grown year on year. This year also sees the first group of students who participated in the first of what has become a hugely successful service user, carer and student conference graduating at ceremonies in July.

My colleagues in the School and our partners in the Service User and Carer group did us proud. The event was a success. Over 130 people attended and they were once again reacquainted with the realities of what it might be like to be a carer. The second event was a participation event looking at how to more effectively engage with children and young people in all aspects of our work, but particularly, with our research activities. Again this was a very successful event and provided much for us to think about in taking this work forward.

And talking about children, my eldest son and his wife presented me with my fifth grandchild this week. It is a slightly spooky feeling, but of course I am so proud and happy for them. As it is the digital age, I was able to see photos within a hour of him being born – despite the birth happening in Hastings, New Zealand! Intriguingly, the clock tower in the centre of Hastings is surrounded by a small flock of concrete sheep. It appears that uunknown Hastings residents seem to find it an unending source of amusement to leave real sheep droppings behind the concrete sheep. I think it is called having fun in New Zealand. I have been there three times and every time I come away thinking it is along way away from anywhere else in the world.

Anywhere else in the world was just where I wanted to be last Sunday! The six foxes that have taken up residence in our neighborhood came like Ninjas in the middle of the day and took and killed all our chickens. They did so while we were in the kitchen preparing lunch. All that escaped this ferocious attack were a couple of one week old baby chicks and Jemima – the duck who thinks she is chicken. Heroically Jemima has literally taken the two orphaned chicks under her wing.

But it is now a new week and today is Fathers day. I have just been presented with a great big bottle of malt whisky from my youngest daughter. Yes we start our days early. The whisky is called Monkey Shoulder. Readers of earlier blogs will recall that this whiskey has a special significance for the two of us. As with all my children, I have always tried to ensure they understand how much of burden it can be to carry someone else’s monkey on your shoulder.