Sunday, 27 September 2015

A Week of Planning, Developing, and Celebrating Together

I think I might have slept in Victoria Beckhams bed last week, but I don’t know. It’s not because I had too much to drink or my memory is failing me, it’s simply I don’t know which bed she was sleeping in when David Beckham proposed to her back in 1998. Last week I stayed at the same hotel where the proposal was made. I was at the Rookery Hall, in Nantwich, with our team of Associate Deans on a 2 day team development and planning event. The Associate Dean’s team is a relatively new group, and have only been together for some 9 months.This was the first time we had been able to spend some time together focusing on ourselves as a team rather than on work issues.

It was a grand building and a wonderful setting for some team building. Mobile phone signals were almost non-existent and after trying half a dozen times to get a signal, we all gave up and accepted the lack of contact with the outside world. Our time together was facilitated by a couple of very experienced consultants from Lois Burton. They skilfully enabled us to explore our shared values, roles and ways of working with each other. It certainly wasn't always an easy journey of discovery, and of course it was only a start.

Now some people have been known to comment on my tendency to use my blog as an excuse to indulge in being a restaurant critic, usually being less than complimentary on the food I have been offered. The good folk at Rookery Hall genuinely surprised me with both their service and the food served. At the evening meal, none of the team felt like a sweet, so we ordered a cheese board for 6 and when it came it was superb. Unlike the journey home which due to the Friday evening traffic, was very long and tiresome.

It was the second time in a week I had found myself stuck in traffic. Wednesday evening I travelled back from Chester, and the journey was just as bad. However, as it was the 23rd I raised a glass of champagne in celebration and memory of my younger brother Christopher, who died 8 years ago. Christopher was at one time a landlord of pub in Kent, and he knew a great deal about alcohol (my Mother would probably say he was too familiar with the demon drink). What I didn't know was that there are 1 million bubbles in a glass of champagne. Gerard Liger-Belair, publishing his research in the Journal of Physical Chemistry, has come up with a new way of calculating the number of bubbles. It’s something to do with the tilt of the glass, the temperature of the champagne and something called 'bubble dynamics'. Mind you, Gerard says you only get a million bubbles if you don’t drink any of the champagne.
I had a reason for travelling back from Chester in the Wednesday rush hour. Along with my University Management Team colleagues, I had spent the previous 2 days contributing to the thinking that will bring our University strategic planning objectives to life. I have to say, apart from it being hard work, the teamwork was brilliant. I really like being in the company of enthusiastic and creative colleagues all committed to producing something new, something good.

Whilst the recently published Dowling Review into the way universities partner and collaborate with business and industry helped structure our thinking, the University of Salford has a long tradition and history of undertaking research and other scholarly activity which has a real world impact. Much of this research is undertaken in partnership with industry. Last year, across our School, we secured £2 million in research funding, all of which has been for projects aimed at delivering real world solutions in health, social care, the criminal justice system, as well as in the social sciences, and the arts and humanities.

Its Sunday, and the start of new week. Last week our new students started and I got to welcome them all to the School and the start of their personal journeys of discovery. As it is Sunday I am looking forward to doing something different and not work related, work stuff will have to wait until tomorrow. But maybe, if there is a spare moment or two today, I might do some desk-top research and search the internet to see if I can find which bedroom Posh Spice slept in all those years ago… 

...and last nights England versus Wales rugby match provides a great case study as to the importance of effective team working... ...what a result!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Its the last day of my holiday, and I'm ready to Step Up to the future

There is always an exception that proves the rule. When sleeping, the human body naturally uses about 90 minute sleep cycles. For me I usually have 4 or 5 sleep cycles depending on what time I go to bed – I wake up at 05.00 every day. If you happen to wake up for any reason during one of these cycles you are going to feel extremely tired. Strangely although I break all the 'sensible rules' about getting a good night’s sleep, (don't drink caffeine 6 hours before going to bed; don't watch TV or use your phone or computer as the white light throws off your circadian rhythm sleeping; and no more than 1 or 2 drinks of alcohol) usually I have no problem going off to sleep and waking up refreshed in the morning.

However, last Friday morning, I woke up for no particular reason just before 03.00. It seemed a little selfish to me that I should be awake and W was fast asleep, so I woke her up and we made a cup of coffee, and turned the TV on. The programme playing was the recent Panorama programme 'Could a Robot Do my Job?'. I missed seeing this first the time around and it was totally engaging. The take home message for me was the need to think very, very differently about what the future might look like. New technology, particularly digital technology is developing at an exponential rate (I was amused at the presenter’s earnest explanation as to what 'exponential' meant). Even if the time of watching the programme was slightly bizarre, i found thinking about the future possibilities were fascinating.

Possible futures again featured in my thinking last week. Personal futures for sure, but more often it was the futures of others that captured my imagination. Tomorrow, over 1000 new students will join the School, ready to start their journey towards a higher education qualification. Their futures will be shaped by their own efforts and the changing world they find themselves in. It’s an exciting time for all involved in each of these personal journeys of hope and fulfilment.

Many of these students will be undertaking a degree that leads to a qualification for professional practice. The nature and scope of professional practice in health and social care is also rapidly changing. The Panorama programme featured a number of examples of how new technologies are changing health care treatments and the prevention of disease and accidents. Such changes can bring with them real challenges as to what we imagine or believe might be possible. Equally, as educationalists, it can be a real challenge to think differently about how we might prepare people for the changing nature of professional practice.

As a School we have been very successful in a number of areas. Our Counselling and Psychotherapy team recognised the changing nature of their world 4 years ago and developed and produced a startling different programme that prepares students to start practice as a qualified professional from the day they finish the course rather than having to gain additional hours of supervised practice first. Over the last 3 years the programme has grown its numbers from 50 students to over a 100 a year.

Likewise, in 2010, our Social Work colleagues took the decision to pilot a new way of preparing individuals for social work practice. This was the Step Up to Social Work programme, a rather controversial approach that in an 18 month programme produced qualified social workers. Its now a 14 month programme, but it is not a programme for everyone wishing to become a social worker (you need to have a 1st class or 2:1 first degree). However, the programme has been very successful. We will start Step Up 4 in January 2016, and since 2010, we have taken 240 students through the programme. In the same period we have taken 600 students through the more traditional undergraduate social work programme, and nearly 800 through the traditional postgraduate route.

And as I mentioned in last week blog post (and thanks to all those of you who have read the blog and sent your comments), the School is currently part of the national discussion on what the shape of caring, and nurse education, might look like in the near future. You can catch up on the debate here. What is clear in the North West of the UK is that there is a great desire to bring many of these ideas forward as soon as possible. The various regional representations of the Department of Health in all its elements have long looked to the North for innovation and best practice.  

In the School I think that equally there is the desire to develop more flexible approaches for nursing programmes and we have a golden opportunity to do so with the support of colleagues in practice, the NMC and our commissioners. I am hoping that in 5 or even 10 years’ time someone, perhaps someone who can’t sleep, will watch a programme of how nurse education has evolved and developed and recognise the exponential change brought about here in Greater Manchester, which provided the vanguard for others to follow.

As this weeks blog pictures show, I really was on holiday last week. I walked and walked, I sat and watched the world go by and generally slowed the pace of life right down. And last night it was great to enjoy the last 60th  birthday celebration for W and I this year. A comfortable and relaxed evening shared with some lovely people. Right now I feel relaxed and re-invigorated ready to step up to the mark on Monday. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Seeing the Shape of Caring beginning to emerge through 'our Lisa's' engagement with others

I so like like listening to music. A week ago, it was live music courtesy of 4 guitarists playing foot tapping music in a micro brewery near Carnforth who got every one singing along to a live group rendition of Lou Reeds, 'take a walk on the wild side'. Last night it was the Last Night (of the Proms). The fabulous Marin Alsop kept us enthralled. There was a double helping of 'Land of Hope and Glory', a Sound of Music singalong, and even some flying union jack underpants. I know there was some other important event going on yesterday, maybe a golf tournament between the UK and the US or something else, but the highlight of the weekend for me, was most definitely the BBC Proms.

In the many conversations of last week, the one that was the highlight for me was one in which a colleague referred to 'our Lisa' and the 'shape of caring'. 'Our Lisa', referred to Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing for Health Education (HEE) England. The Shape of Caring review explored the future education and training of registered nurses and care assistants and its outcomes make some of the most important propositions for changes to the education for nurses seen in a long time. Lisa is currently leading on the Shape of Caring consultation/engagement events taking place up and down England.

I went to one of these events recently at Manchester Airport and found that HEE had put a great deal of thought into making the event engaging, fun and very creative - I was most impressed. Last Thursday the engagement approach featured an evening Twitterchat on possible new models for nurse education. Twitter chats are great ways of gaining the thoughts, ideas and concerns of others. Just as last night Marin Alsop described how the power of music has to bring people together and give them voice, Twitter is also a brilliant way to enable others to gain a voice.

Unfortunately last Thursday evening I was driving the Big Black Cat on my way to the House in Scotland as the Twitterchat was being facilitated, so could not take part. At present I am not aware that it is possible to use voice-to-text software to send tweets, although I am sure such developments are around the corner. My iPad and mobile phone and even my car are forever asking me to repeat what I have just said…  …but thanks to the way Twitter works, a summary of the Twitterchat is available (you can find it here), and of course, by going to the #shapeofcaring it's still possible to respond and get your voice heard.

The original 'our Lisa' conversation was actually a far reaching one covering a range of topics from potential new models of funding nurse education, through to what those educational programmes might look like. I have lots of ideas, and alongside my colleagues in the School we are actively working at building upon our 2011 curriculum to develop a 2016 curriculum that reflects the rapidly changing range of care environments. We are also committed to further developing our underpinning creative pedagogical approach to the facilitation of learning. It is an exciting experience to be part of as we are fully committed to exploring every model of learning, however different these might be to our current approach.

There was another strand to my conversation, which reflected the second part of the Shape of Caring review, which is how we might better prepare the largely unqualified members of the current workforce, the nursing assistants, care assistants, and assistant practitioners.The Shape of Caring author, Lord Willis, rightly acknowledged the enormous contribution this group of health care workers makes to the NHS. He noted that they can provide up to 60% of hands on care that people receive yet they often do not have any access to training or personal development. It’s a situation that has to change and as with changes to nurse education, colleagues across our School want to be in the vanguard of these changes.

I've also wondered whether we could work towards this group forming the foundation for a new entrant to the workforce, a group that could be called the Nurse Associate. Of course as a member of the health care workforce, this is a title that is very familiar in the US and reflects the basic differences in the US educational programmes underpinning an individual’s preparation for nursing practice. For me just like the Physician Associate, another familiar and  new entrant to the health care workforce in the US, and one we are on the brink of importing to the UK, the Nurse Associate could have a vital role to play in the provision of future integrated health and social a care services.

Physician Associates' absolutely don't have the same scope of practice as Doctors. Indeed they don’t even have the same scope of practice as Advanced Nurse Practitioners, and for example, many other nurses with prescribing rights. They are not educated and trained in the same way as doctors are. However, it is the medical profession that are the greatest advocates of the Physician Associate and have clamoured for their inclusion into the workforce. Similarly, in my concept of the Nurse Associate,  they would also have a different education and training to nurses As a profession, nursing has rightly secured the graduate preparation headland, and doesn't need to feel threatened by the concept of the Nurse Associate. We need new entrants to the workforce and we should be progressing these debates without resorting to sterile arguments about 'two tierism', or a return to the era of the Enrolled Nurse and so on.
I don’t know if 'our Lisa' reads this blog or not, but I know a large number of other people do – so I would be very happy to hear the voice of others on developing the concept of the Nurse Associate, and/or any other element of the Shape of Caring opportunities. You can do this by leaving a comment here, or emailing me on or tweeting me on @warnetony  I am on holiday now for a week, but will look forward to receiving your responses – right now, as its not yet the 11th of October, as soon as its light enough outside I'm off with Cello to pick some early morning dew kissed blackberries, one of my favourite fruits. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Celebrating Innovation, Milestone Birthdays and whats the price of a bottle of Château Lafite

There was plenty to celebrate last week. A whole load of people came to Manchester for the Health and Care Innovation Expo 2015. When I was there speakers included, Ian Williamson; Simon Stevens; David Dalton, Jeremy Hunt, Devi Shetty (someone I am hoping to meet up with in India later this year), Tami Grey Thompson and Jane Cummings. It was a great gathering and really allowed the plans and early achievements for 'Devo Manc' to be effectively showcased.

Connected to #Expo15NHS 2 day event was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, by key partners from a number of greater Manchester organisations, including, GM Academic Health Science Network; the Clinical Research Network; Manchester Science Partnerships; Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, the 4 Universities and many others. The new partnership that was formed, Healthcare Innovations Manchester, will initially focus on collaborative research aimed at cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, drug and alcohol misuse, and obesity in adults and children.

Whilst there was a celebratory glass of wine to sip at the signing evening it was yesterday that my liver really took a bashing and I have to say that writing this week's blog I am feeling ever so slightly under the weather. I am spending the weekend near the Lake District National Park, actually in a small village called Warton, (Carnforth), and more precisely I am writing this in a rather quirky hotel, the George Washington. Last night I was at the Old School Brewery, a microbrewery, producers of some excellent beer, which if I am honest, I partook of a pint or two.

The Old School Brewery was established in 2012, and like many microbreweries, it came to be from a couple guys whose home brewing hobby grew into a small business. Situated at the foot of Warton Crag, the Old School brewers use top quality ingredients mixed with patience and respect to produce first class hand crafted beers. I was celebrating a friends 50th birthday, and I have to say a good time was had by all!

However, having a good time has left me with a slight hangover. And nobody knows what causes a hangover. In a piece of research undertaken by University College London and presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Conference last week, noted that while we don’t know what causes a hangover, we also don’t know what might cure a hangover. A research study conducted by researchers from Canada and Holland surveyed nearly 900 students and their approaches to dealing with a hangover. 54% chose to eat fatty food and heavy breakfasts, and 70% also drank water before going to bed.

Neither of these approaches made any difference to the severity of the hangovers. You can see some of the popular so called cures for a hangover here, but essentially the message is if you want to avoid a hangover, drink less alcohol. Members of the Scottish Parliament are trying to do that through the introduction of a minimum unit price for the sale of all alcohol. The Scottish government have argued that minimum pricing is vital to address Scotland’s 'unhealthy relationship with drink'. Way back in 2012 MSPs passed legislation which set the minimum unit price at 50p. However implementation of this law has been delayed as the European Court of Justice fear its implementation may infringe free trade agreements. 

Last week the Court ruled the measure could be introduced only if no other mechanism was capable of achieving the desired outcome of protecting public health. It is difficult to see how such a measure could be taken forward in any event. I travel to Scotland most weekends and can’t imagine that anyone is going to check whether I have a case of Château Lafite in the boot of the car or not. However in the completely surreal world that is Scottish politics Nicola Sturgeon may have other plans, but before putting in border controls, perhaps Nicola and her health minister colleagues could visit Manchester and see some of our health innovations…