Sunday, 13 December 2015

Futures, Past and Present: the Healthy University and Communities of Care

Two hours ago I landed in Dubai. Tomorrow is my last Board Meeting of the year at the Abu Dhabi Police project. It has been a long year, full of change and challenge. But as the year draws to a close, it’s good to know that the 'train the trainer' stage of the project has almost reached its successful conclusion. I am confident that we have developed a partnership that will see the ambitions of the Abu Dhabi Police in establishing a future world class juvenile justice services being delivered.

And for one brief moment last week, I took the entire VC Executive Team and University Management Team through a possible future scenario which saw the University of Salford becoming completely focused upon Health. In my imaginary world, every programme we ran was health orientated; we operated a healthy campus where good food was available at a reasonable cost; where smoking was banned and where lifts were only to be used by those with mobility issues. This imagined future occurred as part of a workshop aimed at exploring possible futures for our university following the recent comprehensive spending review.

Whilst it might have been a humorous interlude in an otherwise frustrating workshop, for me at least, it was a fleeting glimpse into a possible future world that I probably won’t see. More prosaically, last week, my world was also grounded in a reality that was difficult to ignore. Last Monday I attended the funeral of my next-door neighbour in Scotland. Kevin had died the previous week having lived with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) for the past year. Whichever way you look at it, MND is a vicious and cruel disease. Kevin was a doctor, specialising in micro-biology. He worked at the same health care service as my eldest daughter. He was a brilliant doctor and knew absolutely what a diagnosis of MND would entail. His courage in dealing with his disease was both inspirational and humbling. My thoughts are with Kevin’s wife and daughter as they work their way through this sad time and their loss.

5 people a day die from MND. This cold statistic of course masks the huge distress families living with MND can experience, and experience from diagnosis to death. Death featured in other ways last week. I was surprised to read a report last week, published by the Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK (MBRRACE-UK), a research unit at Oxford University. Their report suggested that suicide is among the leading causes of death for pregnant women or women who have recently given birth.

Many of the women involved had pre-existing conditions of health concerns prior to their pregnancy, but conditions they were not asked about, and often the women and their families downplayed their problems. BRRACE report recommended that health care services need to create a safe space for women to discuss these issues. This was a theme similar to one I talked about last Thursday when I was interviewed on Quay TV. The brief interview was focused on young people who use self-harming behaviour and what their families can do to help them. If you are in this situation, then I recommend this very helpful and useful guide to living with someone who is self-harming - and many thanks to my colleague Gaynor for bringing it to my attention – the power of Twitter strikes again. 

And finally, audit also played a different role in my world last week. On Wednesday I was interviewed by members of the inspection team from the Care Quality Commission. I am Chair of the Quality and Safety Committee a sub-committee of the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS FT Trust Board. It was an intense and interesting experience. It will be some time before the outcome of the inspection is known in detail, but the initial feedback was very positive – a great credit to all those involved in providing services and the community of care that is WWL.