Sunday, 29 January 2012

Fishy Goings On in Belfast, and Move over Midwives the Three School Boys are Back.

It was a slightly hectic week last week. Monday was a back-to-back meeting crammed day which ended with a quick flight across the water to Belfast. I was there for the CoD AGM (Council of Deans). I was last in Belfast a couple of years ago so it was good to be able to get back there. It is an ever changing place to visit, although I have to say that the hotel stayed at was one I would personally avoid (with the possible exception of the Beetham Tower in Manchester) – why in this day and age the Hilton Hotels and Resorts Group feel the need to charge people £15 a day to access the internet is beyond me.

The CoD AGM was important this year as changes to the constitution were on the cards. However, at the end of the day the AGM was a rather damp squid of an affair. It felt a little like I was located in the time capsule stored inside John Kindness fantastic sculpture called the Bigfish, which was but a short walk away from the hotel. The meeting was South East dominated and seemed completely out of touch with the many changes affecting the University environment. For me the agenda for the AGM simply did not address the very real changes and challenges facing educationalists engaged in preparing the future health and social care work force.

I did take an extended lunch break, BUT although seen in passing, I did not tally at the ornately decorated pub the Crown Liquor Saloon (just down the road from the hotel). Designed by Joseph Anderson in 1876, it is the only bar in the UK owned by the National Trust! For those readers of a certain age, you will recall seeing it in the film Odd Man Out.

And one man who for many appeared to be the odd one out at the AGM was Peter Carter. He was the first speaker of the day and his speech fell flatter than a Dover Sole being run over by a steam roller. Peter Carter is of course the General Secretary and Chief Executive of the nursing trade union, the RCN. Since he took up post in 2007 his tenure has been somewhat a mixed bag. Yes the membership has grown to 420,000, but there have been some high profile PR gaffs as well. Allegedly there were some misunderstandings around what one needs to do to get a Knighthood in the UK, a poorly timed good news story released immediately before the Staffordshire Hospital scandal hit the news, and most recently, a story about the notion that nurses are too posh to care. Not helpful for someone promoting the nursing profession.

Peter started his career as a mental health nurse. Peter is not the only former mental health nurse working at the RCN. Janet Davies, (the RCN Director of Nursing and Service Delivery) who started her nursing career in 1975, (in Manchester), was also a mental health nurse. She has gained a well deserved reputation for her work in how to achieve effective partnership working across health and social care organisations, the police, and the wider community. And judging by her recent photos on the RCN web site, Janet clearly has a better PR company to advise her than the one used by Peter.

But there are some people who appear not to need PR companies. Later on today I shall be recording the entertaining Call the Midwife (watched by 8 million viewers last week), and described by yesterdays Times as a warm hearted, family friendly and gentle nostalgic programme. I am recording it tonight as showing at the same time is the start of a new series of Top Gear. The three presenters, Jeremy, Richard and James, behaving like three over-aged school boys having the time of their lives, test drive three cars collectively worth £500,000, (and all capable of achieving speeds of 225 mph) around the Nardo Ring test track (so big it can be seen from outer space). In a world of PR and professional smoke and mirrors it’s good to see there are some people with their feet firmly grounded on the tar macadam of life.

But I won't be enjoying a glass of wine as I watch. Inspired by all those friends and colleagues I know who are still not smoking, who have taken up walking and jogging, or have kept to their weight watching diets, I decided to have a completely alcohol free week starting tonight - I will let you know how I get on!