Sunday, 15 February 2015

No Shades of Grey in Whipping up Enthusiasm for a New Approach to Public Health

Yesterday was a Red Letter Day, well, possibly like me you received lots of cards largely red cards sent in red envelopes, perhaps accompanied by red flowers, red wrapped heart shaped chocolates and rosé wine (don’t know why its rosé and not red). Yes it was Valentine’s Day 2015. Valentines cards have been sent since 1477, but it’s a day whose origins are earlier, and most likely comes from the ancient annual Roman festival known as Lupercalia. During this festival, men would strip naked and run through the streets swatting young maidens with dog or goat skins whips – apparently this was said to increase the young ladies fertility.

It all sounds like the inspiration for the story line in the best selling book Fifty Shades of Grey. The film adaptation of the book was released yesterday (see the official trailer here) and has sparked mixed reactions. The Forbes review appeared to some up a fairly representative view – ‘for a film that’s supposed to be about the collision between deep emotional need and raw human sexuality, it is cold and clinical to the point of feeling sterile in everything from aesthetics to characterisation’ – not the most encouraging endorsement.

The London Fire Brigade response was a great deal more pragmatic. They have reported a steady increase in people getting stuck in handcuffs since the book was published and are worried that the release of the film yesterday might lead to more people getting into equally tricky situations. They have started a campaign called Fifty Shades of Red aimed at ensuring people don’t get into compromising situations when trying to emulate scenes from the film. It’s certainly a public health message with a difference.  

During Wednesday and Thursday last week I also got to hear of a different public health message from a group of people whose energy and creativity truly inspired me. I was at the Village Hotel, Bury, (which didn't inspire me at all) with 150 people, drawn from Executive Teams and Non-Executive Teams of NHS Hospitals, Community Trusts, and Clinical Commissioning Groups from across the North West all intent on learning how to make Safety Visible. This was the first action learning event in a year long initiative paid for by the Health Foundation.

The Health Foundation is an independent charity whose work aims to improve the quality of health care in the UK. Every year they give up to £18m to fund health care research, fellowships and improvement projects across the UK – all which are focused upon improving healthcare quality. They are funded through an endowment fund (currently valued at £820m) which came from a one off chartable donation of £560m from the sale of the PPP Health Care Group in 1998. It has been said this was one of the largest single charitable donations in UK history.

The event was organised by Haelo. Haelo is an innovation and improvement centre which host experts, clinicians and improvement fellows. It’s supported by Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Salford Clinical Commissioning Group and Salford City Council. I have been involved with it since its inception and along with other colleagues from the University of Salford it’s been great to be part of an initiative aiming to improve the population health and health care for the people of Salford

For me the Making Safety Visible event was very interesting because of the journey of change we appeared to take. Day One, harm (patient harm) was conceptualised mainly by such things as pressure ulcers, hospital acquired infections, avoidable deaths and so on. By the end of the two days harm was also being thought of in terms of population health (obesity, smoking cessation, promoting good mental health and well being and so on). And in organisations that often are confrontational in their relationships with each other, there was a change in perception over the positive nature of what could be achieved by working together. We seemed to reach a slightly more equal relationship than that perhaps portrayed in Fifty Shades of Grey. However, like Valentine Day, time will tell if these changes survive or not.