Sunday, 10 October 2010

Memories of Singapore, Liberating Durham, and THAT Milk Advert

This time last year I was in Singapore. It was hot, humid and exciting. I was attending the inaugural meeting of the Cochrane Nursing Care Network. Unfortunately, since then it has been difficult to encourage colleagues to participate in exploring the numerous systematic Cochrane reviews, in order to identify what the nursing in-put might be. I think this is an important aspect of developing an evidence base for nursing practice. I also understand that such an approach is not going to be for everyone. Singapore is one of my favourite places to visit. Whenever there I always try have a drink in the Long Bar at Raffles, and that ice cold beer always tastes as good as it did the first time I went there many years ago.

I also recalled that the last time I was in Singapore I was only on my 8th blog! Those were early days and unlike last week (and the numerous comments around nurse uniforms – and there is a Polo connection) way back then, I wasn’t always sure what I wanted to say. However, I do remember that it was World Mental Health Day on the weekend I was away, and today, the 10th October 2010, it is once again World Mental Health Day. Achieving good mental health is a global concern. The World Health Organisation estimate that more than 450 million people suffer from mental illness. Many more have mental problems. In the UK, one third of all people visiting GPs will have a mental health problem. Every day, 1 in 6 of us experiences mental ill health. 1 in 5 consultations in primary care are for physical illnesses, but many of these conditions, (stroke, coronary heart disease, diabetes) will often give rise to related mental health problems (depression, anxiety and so on).

World Mental Health Day is a day aimed at raising awareness about mental health issues. The day aims to promote more open discussion of mental illness, mental health and wellbeing. The World Health Organisation describes mental health is being an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health. As part of the awareness raising aims of World Mental Health Day, the School of Nursing & Midwifery is displaying posters and papers that present some of the work being carried out by colleagues into different aspects of mental health and well being. This work can be seen in the Allerton Concourse. If you are unable to come along, more information about this work, and other work in this area from across the College of Health and Social Care can be obtained by emailing Use this email address to learn more about what you can do to promote good mental health and well being.

I was in Durham on Thursday, which although less exotic than Singapore, has its own attractions. I was attending a Council of Deans of Health Meeting. One of the opportunities we had was to engage in was some quality analysis of the Liberating the NHS White Paper. We were helped in this work by Karen Middleton, Chief Health Professions Officer at the Department of Health.

I have to say that at the end of the session I was excited by the possibilities the White Paper proposal presented, but I was in awe of the challenges involved in achieving these. Whilst superficially at least, some of the proposals take us back to the Margaret Thatcher dream of a NHS delivered through the use of market principles, structures and processes, the new opportunities take this dream to a new level.

Ambiguity, uncertainty, not knowing and an absence of rules and regulations, at least in the Focauldian governance sense, lie at the heart of the White Paper. Strangely I felt at home with the context and vision looking forward. This was the subject of my PhD all those years ago, and in any event I have long held the belief that as nurse educationalists we need to find ways to better prepare our students for the challenges of the unknown, embracing the ambiguous, and recognising the difficulties involved in becoming and being a person centred practitioner.

I don’t underestimate the difficulties involved in embarking on this journey. In think about these difficulties, I have taken inspiration from that MILK advert. Clearly I cannot mention the company by name, but getting a bunch of rappers to extol what’s involved in milk production, to sell the health message, and to widen the appeal of mild across generations was brilliant. The break dancing tractors were a stroke of genius.

The advert appealed to my creative side, and reinforced my commitment to keep pushing at the boundaries of what we might be able to do as educationalists.