Sunday, 17 June 2012

Attitudes, Altitudes, Pink Suits, Carers and the best Marigold Hotel in the World.

Here in down town Baltimore it is 23.05. The US are some 5 hours behind the UK right now. And that means I have now been awake for some 23 hours. So if today’s blog is a little rough around the edges it’s to do with a lack of sleep, and nothing whatsoever to do with the ethnographic study I have just undertaken with the 2 wedding parties coming together for a for a drink in the bar. I was interested to look at how these two heterogeneous groups came together and each accepted the other. Both groups seemed satisfied.

Being satisfied wasn’t the case back in the UK last week. Last week the British Social Attitudes survey was published. It made for interesting reading. Since 1983, the survey has been asking the great British Public about their views and feelings towards the NHS and peoples experiences of health care in general. The latest survey, published last week, was carried out over the summer of 2011. Overall, it appears that the level of satisfaction with our health service has fallen by 12% to hit an all time low of just 58%. The level of satisfaction with GP services fell overall by nearly 5% in the last 12 months.

Of course in the interest of fairness, there may be good reasons for this downward movement. There is some evidence to suggest that public expectations have risen. If what people experience doesn’t live up to these expectations then satisfaction will fall.

This was my experience yesterday/today, travelling to Baltimore for the 4th Nurse Education Today / Nurse Education in Practice Conference. Three hours into the flight and I felt peckish. I asked the flight attendant if he had any snacks, ‘Absolutely not’ he said,’ 'this is a 8 hour flight and you people get fed twice’. The ‘you people’ part of the conversation rankled. I wondered if had tough about how it was that ‘you people’ were actually paying this miserable example of customer services salary. In the greater scheme of things I guess I have to think no matter, but I did tweet this experience to the world – let’s see what happens.

I met George on the flight. He was someone, who in a self confessing moment, revealed that he was a very important man from Ghana. The fact that we were all travelling economy class did not seem to faze him. He sat in his pink suit; and the photo does not do justice to the level of pinkness of his suit, his self confidence and presence was simply incredible. What was slightly more startling was the fact that my taxi driver was also from Ghana, and had moved to the US some 20 years ago, and one of the occupants in the taxi, Sue from Huddersfield, was born in the very same village as the taxi driver, just some 2 years before he was born.

And equably incredibly, it seems in the UK our GPs are going on strike this week. Given my recent blogs about my personal experiences with my GP, I am not sure anyone will really notice. What I find incredible is that the BMA in its infinite wisdom has chosen National Carers Week to take strike action. It seems to me a blindingly stupid week to take such action.

The National Carers Week celebrates and recognises the contribution the UK’s 6 million unpaid carers make to those they care for, and to the communities they are part of. Incredibly some 10% of the total UK population are carers. There are 1.9 million people caring for more than 20 hours per week and 1.25 million care for more than 50 hours per week. Women are more likely to be carers than men. There are 3.4 million female carers (58% of carers) and nearly 2.5 million male carers (42%). Most carers (5.7 million) are aged over 18 and the peak age for caring is 50 to 59. More than one in five people aged 50-59 (1.5 million across the UK) are providing some unpaid care. There are 174,995 young people under the age of 18 who provide care, 13,029 of these provide care for 50 hours or more per week.

The only time I get to see films these days is when I fly. The notion of the power a contribution from carers can make to our sense of community was reinforced yesterday when I watched the film, entitled the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the elderly and the beautiful. It is an absolutely wonderful film. For those of you who have not yet seen this, I would urge you to go on Amazon (or other internet film providers) and purchase it. And for those of you who have seen it, well I can reassure you I have no intention of moving to India just yet!