Sunday, 29 May 2016

Eye of newt and toe of frog? – actually Sudocrem soothes all

I can't sleep, so I am writing. The cold that turned me into a Zombie Professor (see here) has somewhat predictably moved to my chest and I now have a hacking cough. Whilst I'm suffering, it does provide W with an opportunity to practice the Black Art of dispensing over the counter medicine. Like many other people W has great faith in those medicines we can buy without prescription. It's paracetamol for headaches; Buttercup syrup for coughs and Sudocrem for everything else. For children, the cure all is Capol (in my day it was Phenergan – absolutely not recommended these days). W is not alone in having faith in these preparations. In 2013, the UK public brought some 942 million items of over the counter medicines to treat themselves, and in 2014, these purchases created a £2.5 billion market.

The highest value products were pain relief (£581 million), cough medicine (£452 million) and skin treatments (£435 million). Medical evidence suggest that none of these medicines actually do much good and they certainly won’t cure any of the common illnesses at all. Such illnesses (cough and colds) account for some 57 million GP consultations a year. However with colds lasting on average 10 days and coughs up to 18 days, making most of feel miserable it is not surprising that many of us look for some kind of relief. W, (who worked as NHS manager for most of her working life) might have it right from an economic perspective. Whilst it might cost us £3-4 to self-care it costs about £32 for each visit to our GPs surgery and  it costs £111 for every person who steps into A&E seeking help.

That is of course unless you live in Chorley. Up until recently, Chorley did have their own A&E department.  Not any more. The CEO of Lancashire Teaching NHS FT, Karen Partington has downgraded the A&E department at Chorley. Claiming that they couldn’t recruit enough appropriately trained doctors she felt it was the right, (and in NHS CEO, Simon Steven's view), a brave decision to take. For those needing the services of A&E they are now having to travel to other centres. Putting real pressure on these services. Whilst claiming the downgrading is temporary, it’s not hard to imagine why Karen might want the decision to be a permanent one. In 2015/16 year only 8 NHS FT hit the 95% A&E target, and only one of these was in the North West – and it wasn’t Lancashire Teaching – but many congratulations to Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS FT, who were in the top 8!

Of course you might expect me to be great believer in self-help approaches to maintaining good health and wellbeing, and I am. There are of course times when we can’t help ourselves, when what we face is beyond our ability to cope. When I undertook my nurse education and training I quickly grew to understand the fine line between being there for someone to help them when they were unable to help themselves, and yet work towards helping people to help themselves. Throughout my practitioner and managerial experience it’s been a real privilege to be able to stand beside others and be there for them when needed.

So it was brilliant to read of Henry Heimlich’s experience last week. During my nurse training one of the things we were taught was the Heimlich Manoeuvre – something that when used appropriately can save someone from choking to death. In the UK some 200 people a year die from choking on food they are eating. Well Henry, now aged 96 and living in a residential setting, saved the life of a Patty Ris (aged 87) who started choking on a piece of hamburger. Henry applied his manoeuver and rescued the situation. Amazingly, it was the first time he had ever used the intervention he was most famous for!

And last week I found I was famous (well at least for another Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame). Finally, I got to launch the Industry Collaboration Zone (ICZ) programme, our University No 1 strategic priority. It was a soft launch, only to University colleagues at present. There was a video of course. Thankfully it was recorded before the Zombie Professor cold and subsequent cough kicked in. I'm hoping that one of my very clever colleagues will find a way of up-loading to YouTube so the whole world can share. Its worth a watch!

Later on this morning my eldest daughter and husband Stewart will be arriving here at the House in Scotland for a week’s holiday. The twins will be 3 tomorrow and along with their older sister, Evie, we are looking forward to celebrating big time. If, heaven forbid, any of the children go down with an ailment, I can rest assured that W will have a remedy in the depths of her black bag….

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A Lumber Jack, a Zombie Professor, and Mums know best!

Last week students at University of the East Anglia were told they were banned from throwing their mortarboard hats at graduation ceremonies because of Health and Safety concerns. The square academic hat forms part of the robes worn at Graduation ceremonies, and the donning of the hat marking the move from graduand to graduate. Many students throw their mortarboards into their air as part of group photos, signifying joy, freedom and completion. A Health and Safety Executive spokesperson noted that it was very unlikely anyone would get injured by a flying mortarboard hat.

I chose not to go to University as I wanted to be a Lumber Jack. I didn’t become one, although ironically when I was much younger, to make extra money I spent many an hour in the forests of Wales cutting down and hauling Christmas trees each year. My parents wisely didn’t try to deter me from becoming a Lumber Jack, and I did eventually get to go to University later in life. But I never did get to throw a mortarboard hat. I also recalled the wisdom of my Mother last week as I struggled through a head cold.

She often told us that a cold takes 3 days to arrive, you have it for 3 days and it takes 3 days to leave. I remembered this piece of advice on day 4 of my cold when I was streaming and feeling very miserable. It was a very busy week, with lots of meetings, including Senate which required me to do a presentation. By day 6 of my cold, I had become a Zombie Professor. I would get home from work and sit feeling sorry for myself, sipping a hot whiskey toddy (parental recommended cure with the addition of whiskey) before going to bed before the 21.00 watershed.

Most of us get 2-4 colds a year (children often have 6 – 8). They do actually last around 10 days and there is not much we can do about it. Such infections have been around since ancient times. There are well over 200 virus strains that can cause the common cold, and colds are spread through the air during close contact with other people and indirectly through contact with objects in our environment. So last week I conducted my meetings at arm’s length and 3 times a day I wiped all my office surfaces down with white vinegar (another of my Mothers tips). Time will tell if my precautions were effective or not.

Whilst colds are very common so are mental health problems. 1 in 4 people are likely to experience a mental health problem during their lifetime. For some this will be a short lived experience, for others their mental health problem might last over many years. Globally 350 million people live with depression. Worldwide nearly 50 million people have dementia. Last week was both Dementia and Mental Health Awareness Week’s. Our University marked each week with many different activities. I liked our free fresh fruit stall provided by the Salford Business School. Eating well can have a dramatic impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

Likewise, I was very privileged to be a signatory at a ceremony held at the Whitworth Gallery where a 3 University Memorandum of Agreement was signed to form the Manchester Dementia Consortium. The agreement was between University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and our University (Salford). I was proud to share the stage with Ann Johnson, one of our Salford Institute for Dementia, dementia Associates. She has lived with dementia for some 12 years and is a formidable person. She was also a former nurse and nurse educator who worked at University of Manchester.

The University of Manchester is one of the Russel Group University group. This is a self-selected group of 24 Universities in the UK. There is a tough selection criteria for joining the group, plus a joining fee of circa £500,000 (at least it was in 2013). They are the so called ‘elite’ universities in the UK. In the week the UK Government published a White Paper on its proposed far reaching changes to the UK University system there was a deliciously satisfying story of what appeared to an example of the distance between Russel Group universities and reality.  

This was the story from the University of Edinburgh (another Russel Group University). Last week their website offered female students fashion advice regarding what might be considered an appropriate wardrobe for graduation ceremonies. The article, (which I think has now been deleted) was sponsored by Harvey Nichols. The recommendations as to what clothes, hand bags, shoes and so on too buy for the perfect graduation event amounted to some £1000. It’s to be hoped that after spending that kind of money you would be allowed to throw your mortarboard hat in the air at the end of the ceremony.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

A telling time for love, health and happiness

2016 is a Leap year which means that today is the 136th day of the year (well at least in the Gregorian calendar that its). Which means that there are just 230 days remaining until the end of the year. Not that I am wishing my life away, but I’m think that this year is just flying past. It could just be my age of course. Logically I know that time passes with the same relentless rhythm as, well, a Breguet watch. These are fine watches and perhaps that is why they can be fairly expensive to buy.

In fact that most expensive watch in the world is a Breguet. It is the Breguet Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette – which is valued at US$ 30.000.00! This watch was originally commissioned by a lover of the French Queen, Marie Antoinette. It took 45 years to create! The watch was an amazing example of design and technology, and beautiful to look at too. If you want to take a look you will have to travel to the L A Mayer museum in Israel.

I haven’t ever felt the need to wear a watch. I wake up at the same time every day, and do so without the aid of an alarm clock or alarm call. My phone reminds me 15 minutes in advance that I am due to meet someone or be somewhere. But of course despite my not having a watch, time, from the moment we are born, keeps moving forward.

Today marks the day that Andy Murray, Brian Eno, Ralph Steadman, Mary Montagu, Ulrich Beck, Chris Ham and Zara Phillips among others were born, and their life clock started ticking. For 2 of these people, the clock has stopped. Ulrich Beck, who died in 2015, was one of the worlds most cited sociologists, famous for his work on the questions of uncontrollability, ignorance and uncertainty, and what he called the ‘risk society’.

But it is the other person no longer with us that I remember with fondness. Mary Montagu died in 1762, so clearly my fondness is not anything to do with knowing her, but I do know something about her life. And what an extraordinary life it was. At one time I was very interested in the economics of health care and Mary’s story would feature in some of my introductory lectures on the subject. I have great memories of my telling a version of her life story to many, many students over the last 20 years. 

She was born in 1689. She was an extremely bright child, and had learnt Latin before she was 8 years old. She was said to be beautiful, energetic and full of life. As she grew into a young women she became more self-willed, opinionated and eccentric. In 1712 she eloped to marry her first true lovel. Mary had a son a year later but in 1715 suffered a severe attack of smallpox, which completely ruined her good looks. She moved to Turkey around this time and it was while she was there that she observed the older women practicing variolation on their children.

This was a practice similar to inoculation, where a small amount of the disease causing matter was injected under the skin to prevent the disease itself being contracted. It was a great idea, but had its own health challenges. Mary, on her return to the UK tried to get the Government of the day to invest in the widespread practice of variolation – and despite her connections, energy and tenacity she failed to do so. It was several decades later (in the 1790’s) that one Edward Jenner had greater success.

Jenner is credited with the creation of vaccinations. In the case of Smallpox, vaccinating individuals with cowpox which then ensured they didn’t contract Smallpox. Unlike Mary, Jenner was able to persuade the Government of the day to part with £10,000, and in 1807 he was given another £20,000 for his contribution to proving the efficacy of vaccination programmes. The rest, as they say is history. 

Clearly Jenner’s work has had long lasting health benefits for us all, but I do have a soft spot for Mary and all she represented. For me she embodied many of the characteristics said to be associated with people born on this day each year. Such people tend be creative, full of charm, are reliable, competitive and intelligent. As lovers they are sensual and passionate. They tend to be inspired (and inspirational), talented and full of enthusiasm. However, despite being expressive they can also sometimes be impulsive, insecure and restless. But overall they tend to be dependable, and warm hearted. So here's wishing all of those born on the 15th May a very happy birthday! 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

There is a First Time for Everything: Including a First Blog Posting

Life is for living and I have not yet lost my desire for new time experiences. I was able to add to my collection of firsts last week. After W's disappointment over the Edinburgh Dyson hairdryer-gate we landed at the 18th century country mansion, Dunnikier House hotel in Kirkcaldy, Fife. The following day we were to do the Elie Chain Walk. This is a short walk (just a couple of hours) along the cliff face – but can only be done when the tide is out. The walk is made possible through the use of stainless chains bolted into the cliff face at a number of points along the walk. These allow the walker to climb or descend vertical sections and traverse other sections. It was exhilarating and such a great way to spend a hot and sunny bank holiday Monday with friends.

Unfortunately, Tuesday meant a drive back to Manchester, and jumping on the early morning plane bound for Abu Dhabi. The project the University has there is in good shape and colleagues were really making a difference to the lives and wellbeing of the young people placed in the young offenders centre. The visit coincided with the Al Israa wal Miraj public holiday. Unlike the British equivalent, this holiday was tacked on to the end of the working week. It wasn’t a problem for the visit but no alcohol was sold in the 24 hours leading up to the holiday. Strangely the 24 hours was not the 24 hours immediately before the holiday, which was just as well as there was a bit of a football match in the hotel bar big screen, and for the first time in my life I spent an evening watching football – Real Madrid versus Manchester City. But it was an interesting, albeit, a very noisy experience.

The visit to Abu Dhabi was to resolve some contractual problems and on the last day I had a meeting on the roof terrace of the Viceroy hotel. Ascetically and architecturally, it is a marvel, day and night. Part of the hotel straddles the Formula 1 race track, and at times the conversation was made slightly more difficult because of the racing cars roaring around the track – but it was another first. I was also able, for the first time visit our University office in the city centre, a circular tower building that was all glass, and stainless steel. Thanks to Graeme for his superb hospitality and access to communication technology expertise and facilities.

Technology was an important feature in last week's work, and the pace of change in what is now possible never ceases to amaze me. It enables ideas to be shared, for time zones to be transcended and conversations to take place where before they simply wouldn’t have been possible. There was even wi-fi available on the plane, although I couldn't get it to work, I am sure it will soon mean business will get done 24 hours a day where you happen to be, even if that happens to be 40,000 feet up in the sky. But it was good to be able to keep in touch, although as the visit to the project demonstrates, at times it's important to make sure you can still have face 2 face conversations.

Friday, saw a return to the UK, then a drive up to the House in Scotland. It is always good to get back home, and to get grounded once again. Monday is the start of a new working week, with a new set of challenges to face and opportunities to explore. But right now, this is the last time I am going to make use of technology until I'm sitting at my desk on Monday morning – the heat in Abu Dhabi was intense, here the day promises to be a more familiar British Spring Day and it will be good to get outside with Cello and stretch my legs. 

Having said that however, my shout out this week is to a lady called Judith. I have never met her and only know her through Twitter conversations and re-tweets. Last week I could feel for her as she tweeted her frustration and not being able to get her blog together sufficiently to post - and hadn't been able to do so for 5 weekends on the trot. But yesterday came a confirmation tweet to say the draft of her post had been completed! As I’m looking forward to reading it, I may just keep my phone on after all - as Lily Bobtail might say, 'just in case!'

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Tickled Pink over Bedbugs, Thoughts of the NMC and Creating a New Start in Salford

It seems colours will also feature again in this week’s blog posting (see last week’s post here). I was tickled pink (Ok, gratuitous I know) on reading the story about bedbugs having a preference for certain colours. They like the colour Black, (Red is their favourite colour however), and don’t appear to like the colours Yellow or Green. Female bedbugs preferred Lilac and Violet, whereas the male bedbugs preferred Red and Black.

The study results were published last week in the Journal of Entomology, although the UK newspapers had great fun in interpreting the results in creative ways. The Telegraph even managed to weave some Fifty Shades of Grey comments into its report of the story. Bedbugs can be really difficult to spot, although their presence can cause a number of allergic reactions, skin rashes and itchiness being the most common. They are not particularly attracted to dirt and can be found in the cleanest of rooms – However, I would recommend calling out a pest controller if you suspect you have an infestation.

Last Thursday I awoke to a White World. It was a Spring blizzard.  However as it was the right kind of snow and I was able to catch the train to London for the first meeting of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Future Graduate Registered Nurses Thought Leadership Group. I contributed to the early work of this group last year, and its a great privilege to be invited back to continue the work. The group has been formed to address the impact the changing nature of health and care delivery might have on the practice of registered nurses.

Working with a wide range of stakeholders the group aims to identify and agree the professional practice knowledge, skills, values and proficiencies a future nurse should be able to demonstrate at the point of registration. The group will also develop new outcome based standards of proficiency for future registered graduate nurses which are robust, resilient, dynamic and fit for purpose.

The challenge inherent in the project is one familiar to me. In 2000 I contributed to a research project for what was then the English National Board (ENB). It was a project aimed at identifying the educational preparation required for mental health nurses to best equip them to work in multi-professional, multi-agency services. It was an interesting project to be part of. The ENB almost didn’t publish the final report due to the contentious outcome of our analysis, an analysis that brought into focus the comfort and challenge of mental health nursing practice.

During the summer of 2006 some of the members of that project team came together again to write what I think was one of the best papers I have ever been part of. The paper looked at the changing nature of professional practice, and developed the notion of economies of performance and ecologies of practice and how these were acted out in teacher and nurse professions. I used some of the thoughts from the paper in a poster, which I framed and put on the wall of the nursing School at the University – and some 16 years after first writing them, I think they absolutely capture the challenges involved in the NMC project: The more diverse, plural and unpredictable professional work becomes, the greater will be the managerial pressure towards homogeneity, singularity and coercive specification; The more precisely you specify a professional performance, the easier it is to measure and the harder it is to motivate.  

There are other challenges for me this weekend. Later today I am off to Edinburgh to do some shopping. W, who is a Dyson Queen and a major collector of these appliances, has heard about the new Dyson hairdryer, a real bargain at only £299, apparently. It took 4 years to develop, and Dyson spent almost £50m, and used up 1010 miles of hair in testing it. What W doesn’t know is that it will only be available in the UK in June this year…

...finally, there was also another colourful reminder of my past last week. In March 2014 I shared the conference platform with Ruby Wax, a great advocate for mindfulness and a wonderfully warm person. We were both speakers at a mental health organised by START in Salford. 

Start is an arts based organisation that seeks to nurture the mental health and wellbeing in those who might feel isolated or excluded. It is a brilliant organisation and one I helped establish many, many years ago. I was back there on Wednesday evening, to experience a Board meeting prior to joining the Board in July – something I both pleased and proud to do, in fact I was once again tickled pink to be asked.