Can research save the NHS ?

This week it has emerged that thousands of deaths in the NHS may have been prevented if only people had taken notice of the figures on mortality rates in various failing hospitals, Mid Staffs being just one of them. The most shocking part of this piece of news on the BBC  Website is that people in powerful enough positions to do something about it actually knew about it!

This week I will be attending the RCN  (Royal College of Nursing) Research Conference in the beautiful city of Belfast and I am optimistically hoping that the people and research that meets there will be able to make some difference to the NHS. The research should help us to provide better care and prevent bad practice but that is only if people use it and if mangers encourage staff to develop new ways of working that is evidence  (research) based.

My optimism is very fragile however as I also remember attending an RCN congress event about a decade ago where the then Health Minister stood up and told us that there were too many staff in the Mid Staffordshire NHS trust and that there would have to be an immediate cull in order to balance the books.  Strange how  budgets can get so easily in the way of evidence based practice but then, maybe not.

Family and friends are always biased

Recent reports that the family and friends test, often used in businesses to report faulty goods ( would I  recommend my family and friends to buy this?)  will work in the NHS is just another smokescreen for the real problems that the politicians do not want to address.  Lack of  appropriately qualified staff + increased demand = poor care outcomes ( is it really that simple even a nurse can work it out *~*)

I admit to checking reviews on the internet for most things I buy these days but I do not always listen to them especially if they do not meet my needs. The family and friends test will  not be able to identify what my needs are by the way I would expect  an expert to help me do that. Most people would agree that if you want a job doing well you would get the professionals in to do it   so why are we not complaining more when the politicians think it is okay to allow the administration cowboys all over our NHS?

Of course the family and friends test will do nothing to sell the NHS only add to its demise.  Family and friends will expect the best that they can possibly get regardless of what it costs, which is why they will always be biased (See the recent bad press for the Liverpool Care Pathway which is meant to inform a dignified death not hurry it up). Most professionals know when they are doing a bad job  they do not need reminding of it every day. What they do need is support in making the job more effective,  cutting down on the paperwork so they can spend more time with patients and spending that time in a caring role rather that a gatekeeper role, turning people away or turning their back on them is really the last thing they came into the profession to do.

A Critical Christmas

Christmas is on the critical list -yes really! The one thing our lives (in the UK anyway)  that never changes is currently on the brink of collapse with the threat of a DNR hanging over it. I hear hospital wards are not being allowed to put decorations up, school concerts cannot be in any way religious and staff  are working over the festive period without any back up or support from their managers who obviously take it as a god given right to a holiday.

Out of all the holidays we can and do take throughout the year  Christmas is the one that we all commit to take to be nice to each other, to buy gifts for each other and to spend time with each other. We all value  the spirit of Christmas whatever our religious beliefs if we have any and look forward to the traditional celebration and expectancy (or hope) of new life, in nature and time.

If Christmas dies so does the hope and recovery of a society that we once knew and cherished. Not the society that is over indulgent and selfish but the society that looked out for one another, that gave the endless gifts of time and love and could actually show that we cared about one another.

Please be alert for signs of deterioration over the holiday period (including the virtual world) and if your hear people shutting down for the festive period please resuscitate stat.

Taken in by Technology

As an avid fan of all things technological I will have to admit upfront that I love it. On a daily basis I need to monitor my use and consequent lack of exercise in order to try and restore some balance in my life and look after my physical and mental health. But that is my choice. I know the risks and can weigh up the benefits because I like to think I have enough information and knowledge to make those decisions.

Unlike some people (celebs) who seem to  take great risks with their careers by posting inappropriate and often confidential stuff on social media sites just to get themselves noticed, I try not to use technology for this reason. However increasingly my job and my family depend upon on-line or network communication.

At a recent Union Learning Reps Conference I was made aware of how much technology will become a necessity for the future. People will only be able to claim benefits ( renamed as universal credits) on-line or book appointments with doctors or other professionals for advice. Even policy and law is now made freely available on-line and a lot of research (or grey literature) is only published on-line.

We can also catch up on our favourite TV programmes and even publish ourselves on the World Wide Web ( through blogging and YouTube), if we feel the urge. But what about the people who cannot afford a computer or have no knowledge or desire to find out how to work one.  How will they manage their  health and social care needs and will anyone bother to find out?  It is a concern of mine although I do not always admit it  that technology might become the Big Brother of the future, watching everything we do in cyberspace and reminding us when we need to do things for ourselves.  I am already getting text messages to remind me about hospital appointments which are not always accurate I might add. Will we as society go along with this big conspiracy? I guess a lot of people have already found this out and it will put off others from even getting started. Technology has not only taken us in it has also spat a few people out. Will this be the stigma of the future  – the technologically unwashed of society no longer being in contact with the local community and cast out into the wilderness of the real world? Scary!


Sickness benefits, suspicion, and anxiety


In a guest post, Kayleigh Garthwaite talks about her recent research with sickness benefit claimants.  Prompted by a hostile email from a GP after speaking about her research recently on national radio, Kayleigh reflects on the real barriers that sickness benefit claimants face, and the challenges of living in a climate of institutionalised suspicion.

What does it mean for sickness benefit claimants to live in a climate of suspicion?

For the past three years, I have been studying the lives of long-term sickness benefits recipients in North East England as part of my PhD research. Recently, I was asked to appear on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thinking Allowed’ to discuss welfare reform, following a symposium organised by Ben Baumberg and Ruth Patrick in Leeds.

On the programme, I spoke about how a deep-seated fear of welfare reform pervaded the daily lives of people in the study. Some people were afraid of…

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Time to Stand up and Deliver

With all the political wrangling going on over the last few weeks it can be hard to filter out the message that is being delivered. Are we really a nation so shallow that judges our politicians on their ability to perform in front of an audience  In the USA too this seems to be the main priority – how well did they come across in their stand off debates, who was the most confident and who was the most cautious and hesitant? Wow! they delivered their speech without notes! Surely in the current economic times it would be wise to be cautious, to refer to carefully prepared notes in order to demonstrate a genuine concern for the people?

If we compared out politicians to our bankers not a very good comparison I know, but our bankers are people who have been under great scrutiny recently,  would we really be judging them on the same criteria?  I think I would prefer a cautious banker to a cocky one.

As a customer and tax payer I would want to know what are you going to do for me and my family and the local community in which I live?

This week it is the turn of the Conservatives to sell their wares. Please please please don’t waste this valuable opportunity to slag off other parties or crow about your wonderful hindsight. Anyone of us can do that, we want to know what are you going to do for us in order to make our world a better place to live in?