Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012 - A Year in Numbers!

This is the last blog posting for 2012. It has been a good year for readership numbers. There have been some 23,154 page views this year. My thanks to all of you who, week on week, take the trouble to read my words and thoughts on the world. Your support is much appreciated. As regular readers might have surmised, I quite the like numbers that underpin many of the stories commented on. So I thought I would over indulge myself in this last post with some of the numbers that have caught my eye this year. In no particular order of importance here they are:

Team GB won 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze medals during the 2012 Olympic games. The games were watched by 90% of the UK population. A total of 51.9m people watched at least 15 minutes of the London games on BBC TV. The population of England and Wales is 56.1m, 4m more than a decade earlier. We are an ageing population with 1 in 6 of us are aged 65 or over. There are 10.6m children in England and Wales.

Russia has barred couples from the US from adopting Russian children - 60000 of whom have found new families in the US since 1992. However, there are currently 23,000 American children waiting to be adopted, most of whom are aged between 5 and 16.

$6Bn was spent this year on the US presidential election campaigns, which works out at about $18 (£11) per person. The last general election in the UK was 50p ($0.80) per person and the last Canadian election was about $8 per person. However Americans also spent $7bn on crisps this year and about $8bn on the Halloween celebrations.

The US and the UK has been at war in Afghanistan for 4,012 days. Troops arrived less than a month after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 The war in Afghanistan has cost the US $1.2Tn (the UK £2,5Bn) since 2001. It is an incredible amount of money to have spent with so few controls or plans, so little auditing, and almost no credible measures of effectiveness.

According to the United Nations, more than 13,000 Afghan citizens have been killed between 2007 - when the UN began reporting such statistics - and June 2012. Since 2001, 2,000 US and 425 UK service personnel and have been killed. In 2011 the number of people killed in road fatalities in the UK was 1901.

25% of the UK population say they have no religious beliefs, with Norwich being the place the most people report that they have no religion. Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (aged 76) has agreed to pay 36m euros (£30m) a year to his ex-wife Veronica Lario. Forbes estimated his wealth at almost $6bn (£3.7bn) in March 2012. A study of 2012's most read Wikipedia articles reveals that Facebook topped the English edition, Hua Shan - a Chinese mountain featuring ‘the world's deadliest hiking trail’ topped the Dutch list and in Germany, cul-de-sacs were the German site's most clicked entry.

Fifty Shades of Grey was the most borrowed book from the Caterham Library in Surrey. Caroline Warne, 31, of Croydon Road (and no relative as far as I am aware), said ‘the book had been a real bestseller’ among her friends and acquaintances. It has sold over 65m copies in 2012. Scouting for Boys (a similar book allegedly, in that it involves the use of ropes, scarves and woggles) has sold 150m copies since 1908.

More than 800m chickens are raised and killed for meat yearly (about 2.1m per day) in the UK. The average consumer eats 170 eggs per year. I mention this as I also keep chickens, and although I eat the eggs, being a vegetarian, I don’t eat the hens. But foxes do. And there are 2 living in the evergreen bank in the garden. I saw one in the orchard only last Thursday morning while out with Cello. The chickens are safe and sound in their winter quarters however.

Last but by no means least; we were the only School in the University to reach our student target numbers in 2012. In September we registered some 980 undergraduate students and are on line to also take 340 more students in March 2013. It is a time of great turbulence in the UK University sector. According to UCAS, the UK admissions body, nearly 54,000 fewer students started courses this autumn than did so last year. I think this reflects on the student experience that we have collectively worked so hard to enhance. Well done to everyone and I wish you all a very happy and satisfying New Year - 2013

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas 2012

I wish all readers of this post a very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Back to normal next Sunday!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

On Catching a Cold, but not Air France flights, and catching up with Colleagues

I wasn’t sure I would be up to writing this week’s post. My eyes are watery, my head is pounding, throat is very sore, my chest congested and my nose is redder than Rudolf’s! Yes, I have got a cold and I am feeling extremely grumpy, irritable and grouchy. Unusually for me, I even left work on Friday at lunchtime, took to my bed and didn’t re-emerge until late Saturday afternoon. Not sure where I caught the cold from. 

Studies conducted by Cardiff University have shown that close personal contact is necessary for the virus to spread, although the common cold viruses are not spread by contact such as kissing but appear to be spread by large particles expelled at close range by coughs and sneezes, and by contaminated fingers that pass the virus to the nose and eye. The incubation period for a common cold is usually around 2 days before the symptoms start. You are most infective when you have the early symptoms of sneezing, runny nose and cough. Travel to foreign countries can increase the risk of viral infection.

I mention the last point as last week involved flights getting me there and back to Brno, the 2nd largest city on the Czech Republic. The airline was Air France (my least favourite airline ever), and flying through Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (in my experience the worst airport in the world). The Cardiff studies also showed we are more likely to catch the cold virus while travelling by plane. So I guess I might have caught the cold going out and then unintentionally passed it on to other passengers on the flight home – Sorry...

I was in Brno as a Visiting Professor to the Department of Nursing at the Masaryk University. I was there with my colleague Karen Holland, Visiting Fellow. A fantastic new University campus has been under construction in Brno Bohunice since 2002. The last stage of development should be completed in 2015. We were wonderfully looked after by our host Andrea Pokorná. Both Karen and I have known and worked with Andrea for a large number of years so it was a real pleasure to spend some time working with her again.

And it was a full on few days. After 17 hours of travel (thank you Air France) and a disturbed night for me, we found ourselves standing at the gates of Brno’s long term psychiatric facility – the Brno-Černovice Psychiatric Hospital. Even in the snow, and minus 10 temperature, I was transported back in time to my days at what once called Prestwich Hospital (now Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust). What followed were a couple of hours of really stimulating discussion and interaction with service users and the nurses.

The rest of the morning was devoted to a workshop with MSc nursing students exploring the realities and rhetoric’s of evidence based nursing practice. In the afternoon we were hosted by Professor Tomis Kaspaek, Professor of Psychiatry. One of the services we visited was an Intensive Care Unit – not what I had expected, which was a highly staffed unit able to look after those going through mental health crisis and perhaps at risk to themselves or others. This unit was for those who had attempted suicide. It was very small, (5 beds), and the patients looked extremely physically ill. For some reason I have not yet got to, I felt a little emotionally disturbed on visiting this Unit.

The following day was just as hectic. This time at 08.00 Karen and I found ourselves all suited up ready to observe a total hip replacement (total hip arthroplasty). Interestingly, this pioneering technique for hip replacements, devised by a British surgeon John Charnley, marked its 50th year of use in November this year. Sir John Charnley, a surgeon with a love of engineering, developed his artificial hip joint and surgical technique at Wrightington Hospital in Lancashire. It revolutionised hip replacement operations and became the 'gold-standard' procedure, which is still carried out on patients across the world.

I was fascinated by watching the operation although the whole procedure left me having to rethink how surgical nurses are enabled to consider the dignity and care of an individual undergoing this procedure. The afternoon was devoted to a workshop on writing for publication with staff and PhD students. There was enough time to visit the local Christmas Market to stock up on Christmas gifts.

The following day we headed home, and by now the cold was making its presence felt. I fell asleep on the way to Prague – again not like me. We used the couple of hours we had in Prague to visit the city centre. I decided to deal with the minus 8 temperature by purchasing a hat and partaking in a hot toddy. Despite my cold discomfort and Air Frances ineptitude (yes we struggled on the return journey as well!), sitting there under an outdoor heater, sipping the warm spiced fruit drink, I felt the trip had been worthwhile. We have established a process to take community care research forward, and we will sign a MoU to offer places for student exchanges, and best of all, we had reinforced our good working relationship with Andrea and her colleagues – catching a cold along the way is a small price to pay. And now I am closing the computer down, and will go back to sleep.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Off to Australia: in the mourning, we think of Jacintha.

It’s not a good time of the year to be a turkey. I mention this as today I am celebrating Christmas with my youngest son and his lady friend, my wife, my eldest daughter, her husband and my granddaughter. They are having roast turkey with all the trimmings; I'm having a mushroom and cashew nut roast, baked at Château Hoboken, This meal is no minor occurrence it is the first time I can remember my son cooking me anything let alone a full Christmas dinner. They are off to Australia and New Zealand next week and will spend Christmas out there with brothers and sisters from both families.

Australia has played a part in my thinking this week. The first was a piece I read in the Observer about grief and loss and how different people deal with this. The story used the Nicole Kidman’s 2008 film Australia as its starting point. At the beginning of this film there is an on screen warning that urges caution when watching the film as it may contain images or voices of deceased persons. The warning of course, is for the benefit of Aboriginal Australians, for whom it is a taboo to name or encounter representations of the dead.

The naming taboo is said to make people more aware of the person whose name is being avoided. As a form of remembering through non-remembrance, it is a psychological mirror image of more familiar UK traditions where creating and cherishing a representation of the deceased is considered necessary for healthy ‘normal’ mourning. Like so many others life events, mourning has been framed as a problem, pain as something to be cured.

The Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, is possibly best known for her ideas that mourners pass through stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance. The fact that Kübler-Ross was talking about adjusting to one’s own impending death, not to the death of someone else, seemed to pass most people by. Her so called theory doesn’t have an empirical evidence base.

In contrast, the psychologist George Bonanno has studied how people deal with grief. His research involved following people from before they were bereaved to months and in some cases, years afterwards. He was unable to evidence that there is some kind of movement or progression through specific stages of adjustment, and even the belief that most people are plunged into despair and gradually ‘get better’ appeared to be little more than a cliché.

This is not to say that sadness isn't a common response to loss. It is, however, only about 10% of people suffer what is sometimes called ‘complicated’ or ‘prolonged’ grief, where the feelings of loss are intense, long-lasting and cause significant impairment, potentially needing help from mental health professionals. However, the loss of a loved one is not the only ‘loss’ that people can experience deep sadness, and despair over. Loss might involve losing a job, a limb, or a reputation.

I don’t know what Jacintha Saldanha must have been feeling last week. Jacintha was the nurse who was found dead in her home on Friday. Her death followed her involvement in a hoax phone call made last Wednesday that involved two Australian radio presenters who were pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles. Jacintha was the person who accepted the call. During the call information was given on the condition of Kate Middleton who had been admitted with severe morning sickness. The radio station called it ‘the prank call the world is talking about’ before playing clips of news programmes reporting on the original call.

There was much support for all those involved and both the King Edward VII Hospital and the Royal Family were at pains to support the nursing staff involved. However, in contrast it was only after international condemnation following Jacintha’s death that the two presenters were suspended from the station. The Sydney based radio station, 2Day FM, is owned by Southern Cross Austereo.

In a somewhat bizarre coincidence, and although there is no actual connection, you might recall that Winterbourne House, whose vulnerable clients were the subject of much physical and emotional abuse by those who were there to care for them was owned by a company also called Southern Cross. We are still waiting for the Francis Report following the inquiry into the Winterbourne abuse. Let’s hope for Jacitha’s family sake that finding out what happened doesn’t take as long. They are in my thoughts and I am sure many others too.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Hey Ho, Like a Rolling Stone, it’s Back to Work I Go!

Like all good things my brief sojourn in Kippford eventually came to an end and it was back to downtown Bolton, and a house completely re-wired, but with every surface covered in what appears to be self replacing dust, a leaking roof, no central heating, and during what was the coldest spell of the year. It was so cold in the house that the first night seriously contemplated sleeping in front of the lounge fire. I can remember when my children were young, living in a house without central heating, where if it was freezing outside, the (single glazed) windows would freeze on the inside. It was a case of putting another blanket on the children’s beds, but there was never a queue for the bathroom in the morning!

Children and families were the focus on my partial return to work on Thursday. Although not back until the Friday, I popped in to open our Midwifery Conference, which took as its theme, ‘Supporting Mothers, Supporting Families’. It was interesting to reflect for a moment on how things were changing in parts of the UK. For example, I knew that the UK birth rate has continued to rise year on year, but I didn’t know that 25% of births in 2011 were to women who were originally born overseas but had moved to the UK. Poland remains the most common country of birth for immigration mothers but China is now also in the top 10 are Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Somalia, Germany, South Africa, and Lithuania.

So while the number of births in 2011 rose to 723,913 the number of babies born to British women fell  the increase in births resulted solely from a rise in births to non-UK born mothers. Foreign-born females now account for 19% of the population of women of child-bearing age in Britain and according to the Office for National Statistics; they tend to have higher fertility. Having said that its strange then that the Total Fertility Rate for immigrant mothers (the average number of children a group of women is likely to have over their lifetime) dropped slightly to 2.29 while that of British women rose to 1.90.

This not so for all British women though. Britain’s biggest family, the Radford’s, got a little larger 6 weeks ago when baby number 16 was born! Mum Sue, (aged 37) gave birth to baby Caspar in just 16 minutes, bringing her total number of children to an impressive 16. This self sufficient family (they don’t live on benefits) live up the road from me in Morecambe in a 9 bedroom home.

They spend £250 each week on food, consuming 3 loaves of bread, 2 boxes of cereal and 18 pints of milk per day. This already large family has also been joined by their first grandchild after Sophie (the eldest child) gave birth to baby Daisy. Mind you The Radford’s are nothing compared to the Chana family from Baktwang, India, where father Ziona Chana has 94 children by  different 39 wives. Mr Chana, says he is a ‘lucky man’ lives in a 100-room, 4 story home with another 14 daughters-in-law and 33 grandchildren.

Sadly, the Chana family children are unlikely to be around as long as the Radfords children. 33% of babies born in 2012 in the UK are expected to live to 100, according to a new report also published by the Office for National Statistics. They suggest that more than 95,000 of those who turn 65 this year can expect to celebrate their 100th birthday in 2047. Indeed, the number of centenarians has steadily increased - from 600 in 1961 to nearly 14,500 by the end of this year. And more of these will be women than men. In 2012 there are 826,000 babies aged less than one year. Although more are boys - 423,000 compared to 403,000 girls - the survival odds are greater for females. Women have higher life expectancies than men at every age.

And as for me, well I am the eldest of 7 children. And I have 5 children of my own (3 girls, 2 boys) and 6 grandchildren (4 boys and 2 girls) all of whom I love to bits! And as Sir Michael Phillip Jagger, might say,  Monday will soon be here, and goodness it’s great to be alive!