Sunday, 27 July 2014

An illustrated guide to Wounded Healers working in Integrated Social [Work] and Health Care

It was a funny old week last week. It started in a slightly worrying way with me waking up at 03.00 in the House in Scotland remembering that I had agreed to open a conference in Media City UK. I had been given the brief on the Thursday before, but filed this in my bag and promptly forgot all about it until my mind kicked in at 03.00 on the Monday morning. So it was an early start and dash down South. The conference aim was to explore how our Directorate of Social Work could work differently with stakeholder agencies across the public private sector.

The conference was very well attended and I am looking forward to seeing how some of the connection made during the day emerge into new ways of working and project ideas for research and practice improvement. On Tuesday I opened the second day of our School conference on Wounds and wound care. 225 people from all areas of wound care attended and there was a definite buzz across campus as delegates participated in a range of different workshops. My paper was on the wounds to the mind, and to peoples mental health and well-being that can arise from child and early life experiences.

My paper took the audience for a quick romp through the paintings of Frida Kahlo, Carl Jung’s notion of the Wounded Healer and Isabel’s Menzies-Lyth’s work on social defense responses used by nurses. I enjoyed being part of the conference and of course relished sprinkling my presentation with images of the provocative kind.

Images featured heavily throughout the week. Some were humorous, like those used to illustrate the story that reported on why men are decorating their beards. Sara Gold McBride, a PhD student from Berkeley, who is studying the connection between facial hair and power in history thought it might be a playful way of establishing some distance from barefaced authority! Me, well I just smiled at the images of beards, possibly the ultimate symbol of masculinity, getting floral makeovers.

Some images were a great deal more sobering. The beautiful but sad picture of the victims of the outrageous MH17 disaster arriving home to the Netherlands showed a great deal more respect and humanity than had been shown to them a the Ukrainian crash site.

And in the smoke and mirrors defence mounted by the Healthier Together team of their so called inclusive consultation of how acute care and specialist health services in the Greater Manchester area might look if they get their way, I was captivated by a photograph by Harish Tyagi. This was used to illustrate a paper that explored what processes needed to be developed that could best support the integration and interaction – vertically between generalists and specialists and horizontally between acute, primary and social care. 

The best combination of image and cleverness to catch my eye last week was the site that allowed you to assess your risk of a heart attack, stroke and assorted other problems. Users of the test will need to be honest in making their responses to the questions, but it is a brilliant idea. Try it for yourself here. In an age of increasingly chronic disease conditions, many of which could be avoided, there are more and more signs of efforts moving up stream, in terms of prevention, health promotion and self care. What Carl Jung might have thought about these changes remains unknown however.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Night Owls, 2085 Students, and Blackest is the New Black!

Where would be without psychologists? Of course this is a rhetorical question as we would be where we are with or without psychologists, but last week I was intrigued to learn from Sunita Sah, a professor in business ethics (sounds rather like an oxymoron) and a psychologist, that 'morning people' are more likely to cheat and behave unethically in the night hours. Now I get up every day at 05.00, but by 23.00 I am usually in bed fast asleep. So much for being a badly behaved night owl!

On Tuesday the only Graduation Ceremony I didn't take part in was No 4, which was the one where the psychology students from our College were graduating. At the first 3 ceremonies I presented our students, all 2085 of them! As always it was a wonderful celebration of their achievements. It was a nightmare time for me – I love being on the stage, 4 million watching on-line, but my nemesis is name pronunciation! My erstwhile and steadfast colleague, Janice provides me with a sporting chance to get the names phonetically correct, many, many thanks as always Janice for your help.

I did watch myself on YouTube for all of 75 seconds, before turning off. Watching myself I wished I had invested in robes made from the new black –Vantablack. Described last week in the media as 'blackest is the new black'. This is a material so black that it absorbs all but 0.35% of visual light. The material is made up of carbon nanotubes, each 10,000 tines thinner than a single human hair – it’s so black that the human eye cannot understand what its seeing. Shapes and outlines are lost, leaving nothing but an apparent visual abyss.

It seems that if I was to have an Armani suit made from this material (there are other suits you might want to consider buying) my head, hands and feet would appear to float somewhat corporeally around a suit shaped hole. In effect, I would disappear. Making me wince slightly, (in terms of disappearing), was Mel Campbell, writing in the Guardian newspaper (I know, I know, but we all have to earn a living) – she was mourning the passing of that old fashioned, some would say quaint, phenomena called a blog.

It appears that today's in the know people (usually described as young) don't do blogs anymore. Blogs are dead, long live 'WhatsApp; Snapchat; Tumblr; Instagram; and Vine'. This is where folks today go to find their instant interaction, news, information, emotional moments, and so on. Maybe you are reading this posting and are now asking yourself why - indeed a question my Father asks me every so often is why do I write my blog? - well for some 5 years I have written this blog as a means of saying things that perhaps I don’t get to say during the week. I dare to think at times it’s creative and interesting. I will be up at at 05.00 next Sunday writing and posting my thoughts. Thank you for continuing to read my musings whatever time of day you choose to do so!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

66: Healthier Together, Better Together, Staying Together

A consultation on what ‘best care’ might look like in the Greater Manchester area was launched last week. Led by 12 people (all doctors) who head up the CCG (those groups of people who commission health care services for you and I), this launch was part of the 'Healthier Together' campaign. The plan is to change the way NHS services are organised and provided to the 2.8 million people who live in the conurbation. There is much said about shifting services closer to patients homes and out of hospitals.

'Healthier Together' also aims to ensure that specialist care provided in in hospitals is just as reliable and excellent in terms of health outcomes as other countries. For relatively small number of people, (for example those requiring specialist surgery) the proposed changes are to have a smaller number of bigger services located in just 4 or 5 specialist hospitals around the Greater Manchester area. The idea being that wherever you are located if you need access to specialist care you will be able to receive it. So far so good you might think, perhaps leaving aside the growing transport problems associated with moving around the Greater Manchester area.

There are also possible financial savings to be made. For example, early intervention and treatment of mental health problems could produce savings of £300 million a year in the UK. Given that the health and social care system in Greater Manchester costs £6 billion per year any saving is going to be welcome. Indeed a survey published by the Nuffield Trust last week reported that over 50% of the health care leaders they interviewed felt the ‘funding squeeze’ meant that patient care would start to suffer. 66 out of 249 NHS Trusts finished the year in the red. The report calculated that the NHS needed an extra 2 billion pound a year more just to maintain the status quo. 

Building on the status quo is the aim of the ‘Better Together’ campaign up in Scotland. Having a house and intending to eventually live there full time means I am interested in the outcome of the vote on September 18th at the time of writing this blog, just 66 days away now. The countdown can be found here.

The 'Better Together' campaign represents the Yes vote, and just like 'Healthier Together' they make a compelling story. It’s the Scottish Parliament who will decide what’s best for universities, schools, green energy, health care and industry. Interesting to note that terms of health care, the 'Better Together' campaign reminds us that health care is absolutely free in Scotland, and there will continue to be access to specialist treatment anywhere in the UK NHS - which presumably includes Greater Manchester.

And yesterday saw me in another one of the UK's 4 nations. I was in Cardiff, Wales, to celebrate my Mother and Fathers 60th Wedding Anniversary. They got married 6 years after the NHS had been created in the UK, and over the years the 2 of them and their 7 children, 20 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren have, on a few, but critical occasions, used the health services provided by the NHS. 

However, yesterday, the Sun had her hat on, the company was in good spirits and there to celebrate in style, the bubbles fizzed and flowed, the 60 years’ worth of photos and memories were stirred and appreciated, and we all stood to read the card sent by the Queen. I know my Mother and Father occasionally read this blog, so just to say thanks for everything you have given us children and many, many congratulations. 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Supporting Students, Tofu, Casual Sex and the Art of Good Mental Health

The hardest question I had to answer this week came from the VC. He had decided to support the Three Charity Ball, (Graham Layton Trust, Kidneys for Life and the Noor Foundation) and wanted me to nominate 4 colleagues to join him at a sponsored table. The criteria were to identify colleagues who had made a major contribution to supporting the experience of our students. It was an almost impossible task. We have just fewer than 230 full time colleagues working in the School, all of whom, in their own way, are committed to supporting our students’. Whether it’s sitting in the School Reception area and answering the student’s questions, to offering students advice about the next assignment, all our colleagues deliver a good student experience.

We don’t always get things right, and a great deal of my time is spent in dealing with student complaints. However, a great deal of my time is also spent on celebrating what we do get right! And there is plenty of things to celebrate…

…for example, last week I was in London for a meeting looking at the future of community nursing. The conversation appeared often stuck in the past, for example, people talked about acute care as if this only happened in hospitals – clearly not the case today and increasingly it won’t be the case in the future. There was talk about District Nurses and Community Nurses, titles that conveyed a sense of specialist knowledge difficult to acquire. Colleagues in our children’s and young people Directorate are already successfully equipping nurse of the future to work in community settings, something unheard off even just a few years ago and something I was happy to point out to Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Health Education Englands Director of Nursing.

And last week Virgin Trains also got it right for me, perfect wifi connections, no delays, and there was even a vegetarian lasagne for dinner! However and perhaps unfortunately there was no tofu on the menu. Torfu is made from soybean curd, s naturally gluten free and low calorie, contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron and calcium. For vegetarians, it’s an important source of proteins. Recent studies have shown that apart from promoting a healthier complexion and good looking hair, tofu consumption can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, inhibit the growth of cancer cells in both breast and prostate cancer, reduce the risk of dementia and other age related brain diseases, help prevent liver damage and reduces the risk of osteoporosis and other menopausal problems.

If you can’t face including tofu into your diet, there is always casual sex. A study published last week by the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Sciences appeared to suggest that those who indulged in casual sex had a greater sense of well being than those who didn't. Well that is the way the Daily Mail and the Mirror newspapers appeared to report results (although in fairness, the Mirror did offer advice around the use of condoms and the promotion of safe sex). As the study only involved college students it is difficult to know if the psychologists have got it right or not. Personally, on this occasion, I think they probably haven’t.

I did meet some people who perhaps had a better idea to think about - these were the folk I met at the Schools Art and Mental Health Symposium. Jointly facilitated by the School of Arts and Media, and our School, and led by our Midwifery colleagues, last week the symposium saw 2 great days of paper presentations, drama performances and the opportunity to view some brillant art installations. I was fortunate enough to open Day 2 and I chose to do so by celebrating the 66 year anniversary (yesterday) of the creation of the NHS.

I have been fortunate that over the last 20 years I have been able to see health care services all over the world, including the US, India, China, Finland, Brazil, Lithuania, Australia, Holland, UAE, New Zealand, Kenya, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Canada, Wales, Hungary, Estonia and South Africa and many more. In all of these places, good and not so good, the NHS has shone like a beacon of hope. Like our efforts in the School, the NHS doesn’t always get it right, but I hope we are both open to learning from our mistakes