Staying at Number 1 by Jeff Ace

Each of us will probably always remember where we were on Saturday 10th August 2019 when Wales became the number one ranked rugby team in the world. Sadly, on Sunday 11th, the technicalities of a loss (in a meaningless friendly that nobody at all cared about) meant that we lost this iconic status. We were heroes, but just for one day.

NHS Scotland does not use league tables as universally recognised as the IRB rugby rankings. Probably the closest thing we have is the analysis on the NHS Performs website NHS Performs | Home . Here you can see how NHS D&G performs against some of the major national targets and how this performance compares to the Scottish average. The tables make very good reading from our perspective and we should all take great pride in our performance. Behind all these statistics are real people and families who are receiving safer and faster treatment in D&G than in many other parts of the UK.

Given all of this, I should be sleeping better than I am and dreaming contented dreams of Welsh sporting triumphs. But the truth is, I’ve been pretty worried about our ability to keep on performing so successfully given the pressures we’re facing regarding workforce, rising demand and limited money. I could add Brexit to the list of course but that probably needs a blog of its own which, If Ken insisted on redacting all the swearing, would be a pretty quick read.

You’ll have heard it all before of course. Interviews for new Chief Executives largely consist of exercises proving that you have a sufficiently pessimistic outlook to take up post. We are renowned for prophesies of imminent doom and at our monthly meetings in Edinburgh can create such a singularity of gloom that no light escapes.

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The Patron Saint of CEOs is a Doonhamer

 But, and I appreciate you need to trust me a bit here, this is different. Across the health and care system we’ve identified over 70 key posts to which we’re struggling to recruit. We started this year with a gap between our funding and our projected costs of over £21M and, even after a thorough and very difficult cost reduction exercise, still have a projected gap of around £8M after the first quarter of the year. Meanwhile our primary care workload, our A&E attendances and our hospital admissions continue to rise as our population ages. Add to that our requirement to make sweeping reductions in CO2 emissions (and to become carbon neutral in a couple of decades) which will necessitate radical change to our health and care model. These are not run of the mill problems and they are not going away. I think we now run a real risk of struggling to maintain the levels and quality of service that our population deserves.

This just isn’t an option for us. So the gloom has to stop and we have to change the future. 

I’ve been CEO here for over seven years now and have been absolutely astonished at what we’ve been able to achieve in terms of patient safety improvements and successful delivery of huge infrastructure projects. I simply refuse to accept that we can’t transform our current situation with equal success. If I’m wrong, well, we’ll still have much more fun trying to improve things than gloomily managing their decline.

So we’re creating a project structure to have a real go at putting things on an even keel again (it’s modelled on the project that delivered the new DGRI in 2017). NHS CEOs are required by law to use acronyms wherever possible so we’ve called it ‘SAM’, standing for Sustainability And Modernisation. You’re going to be hearing a lot about SAM. 

SAM!

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(the graphics will improve, honestly. My suggestion for a Welsh fireman fell foul of copyright)

Whilst we’ve stolen some features from the financial recovery programmes already running in various parts of the UK, SAM has to be ours; it has to address what you see as the real problems and fix them in a way that’s right for NHS D&G. I don’t want us to shy away from the money problem (if SAM doesn’t reduce our costs it has failed), but I also want to raise the bar so that we make changes that improve our patient experience, make our working lives more enjoyable and make the delivery of health and care greener, with a lower carbon footprint. These aren’t optional extras of redesign, they are essentials if we’re to make change that will last, and that will give us reason for continued pride in our services.

We’re launching SAM next week and are going to try to talk face to face with as many of you as possible. We need you to tell us how to shape the programmes and work with us on the redesigns because nobody knows the services better than you. In the great lesson from Brexit, this time we’re going to listen to the experts. 

We need to make sure the changes work across health and social care so the tour will be a double act between me and the IJB Chief Officer, Julie White. 

I appreciate not everyone will be able to come to one of the sessions below so we’ll re-run the tour in the autumn. We’ll also film one of the events and post it on Beacon so that if first time round you miss SAM you can … play it again.

I look forward to seeing and talking to as many of you as possible over the next couple of weeks.

SAM Director Tour

19 – 27th August 2019

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Jeff Ace is the Chief Executive Officer for NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Think what not to say! #TWNTS by Jane Clark

Think about the last time you were talking to new colleagues or friend over lunch.  How did the conversation go? I bet the chances are a couple of questions were asked.  Do you have a partner? Are you married? Do you have children? How many? You have been married for how long, do you not want kids? These questions map out the socially expected journey of adulthood. Why do we feel we need to ask these questions? For some people these are very difficult questions often loaded with pressure, expected life goals that many won’t, don’t or can’t meet.  Questions that can cause anxiety, heartache, pain, sadness and tears.

Becoming pregnant and having a child seems so easy for so many people…we all know someone that has fallen pregnant after trying for a whole month or by accident!!! The reality for 1 in 6 couples trying to conceive is much more challenging.  It’s a journey that can take years.  Years of stress, heartache and grief.  The realisation that your dream to become a parent may never come true.

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Causes

Fertility issues can be caused by a whole range of factors.  Gynecological issues such as PCOS & fibroids, low sperm count or sperm abnormalities, hormone imbalances, previous infections or STD’s, previous surgery or trauma to the reproductive organs as well as a consequence of medication.  Then there is “unexplained infertility”.  This is where no actual cause has been identified.  This can be frustrating for many couples because there isn’t actually anything to treat or a physical problem to direct treatment to.  It is just unlucky, but I like to think of it as the doctors just aren’t clever enough to figure me out!!!!

Then there are the social issues.  Some people don’t meet the right person to start a family with or when they do it’s later in life.  Some want to be financially secure before starting their family.  Some people do not want children, and some are childless by choice.

For those that are struggling to conceive luckily there are options to help.  None of these are guaranteed to work.  The most common one that you have heard about if likely to be IVF but there are less invasive options such as lifestyle changes, drug therapy and IUI.  In Scotland we are lucky that the NHS provides the gold standard fertility treatment, following the recommendations set out within the NICE guidelines.  After meeting the eligibility criteria, up to 3 funded IVF cycles can be provided to a couple. Elsewhere in the UK, this is much less or in some instances not provided at all.

The Emotional Toll                       

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The emotional impact of fertility problems is frequently underestimated.  There is often a monthly cycle of hope, anticipation and dreaming followed by heartache and tears when your period arrives on time.  It’s not just the ladies in the relationship that feel this…It’s the men too.  After all they are 50% of this equation.  Plus, they are often on the receiving end and bear the brunt of our hormones too… sorry guys.  This monthly cycle can put a strain on even the strongest couples.  As the month’s and years pass this cycle becomes harder and where there was once excitement and optimism, doubt and worry creeps in.

Then there is the financial toll.  IVF is an expensive business if you have to fund it yourself.  A cycle costs upwards of £6000, with no guarantee of a successful outcome.

Work Life Balance

If you end up needing fertility treatment, this is done at a fertility clinic often outside your local hospital.  It involves numerous appointments, procedures (some involving sedation) and medications.  Some of these appointments are at very short notice, meaning that’s it’s often difficult to juggle both work and treatment.  Support from your workplace and flexibility in your working hours is often required.

Disclosing that you need fertility treatment is often difficult and many people go through treatment without telling anyone.  For this reason, it would be helpful if all employers had a fertility policy in place which both employees and their line managers could access easily. Currently, there is no mention of fertility treatment within the NHS Attendance Management Policy. My experience was that I when I tried to find out what help I could get; I was directed to my line manager from HR.  Not overly helpful if you’re not ready to disclose your fertility struggles!! The Fertility Network UK currently is campaigning for ALL workplaces to be have a fertility policy in place.

https://fertilitynetworkuk.org/trying-to-conceive/fertility-at-work/

By having a policy in place this would provide knowledge, reassurance and support to help both couples and their managers gain the information they require without having to initially disclose their treatment. It would also raise awareness of the physical, emotional and financial stress that fertility treatment can have on a person and would support workplaces and line managers to make accommodations to support their employees.  Considering the financial cost of IVF or other fertility treatments (which is often NHS funded) does it not make sense that the NHS supports its own employees through this journey?  My gut instinct is that this would save the NHS money in the long run.

#TWNTS

I am rambling so, going back to the start, when you are having those conversations and asking people if they are pregnant or have kids, please be mindful and consider the pain that those questions might cause.  That person may not ever be able to carry a child. They may have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth.  They may be waiting for or undergoing investigations.  They may have just had a failed treatment cycle. They may disclose their story to you, but the chances are they won’t.

We are all human and it’s easy to make comments and not realise how they come across, we have all done it.   Here are a few examples of things not to say (especially to a hormonal lady on IVF meds).  These are examples of things people have said to me or my husband during our fertility struggles.

“Just relax and you will get pregnant”

“Are you doing it right?”

“Are you firing blanks?”

“Your better off without kids”

“IVF will get you pregnant 1st time”

“So, you’re a career girl then”

@thisisalicerose has started a powerful, funny awareness campaign around this issue.  The following two short links from her Instagram show examples of things what not to say. One of these videos focuses on professionals.  Please have a watch, they only last a couple of minutes and certainly give food for thought.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvQ0szWh0FM/?igshid=1gctzpfjjx9o1

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpEyWCWgcKy/?igshid=rhybzeeelrme

So what do I say?

If someone does disclose anything to you, please pause and think about what you say next.

Often all that is needed is to say, “I am here for you”, “I’m sorry your having a difficult time, can I do anything to make it easier for you?” “Would you like to talk”

And Finally

This is just my experience. I have written this out of some of the frustrations I have found along my journey to becoming a parent. This path is my life, it’s not how I would have choose it, but I am not ashamed of it.  It has given me opportunities, opened doors and allowed me to make new friends along the way, without which I would never have got. Its even allowed me to chat to royalty!!

Thinking about what not to say, is pertinent to EVERY ONE OF US, not just in this situation, but in our day to day lives, be it with our family, friends, colleagues or patients.  Just be mindful of who is in the room, you don’t know everyone’s story and to anyone in my shoes, GOOD LUCK.

Jane Clark is a Charge Nurse in Critical Care at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Labours of Love by Ren Forteath

‘Labours of Love’ is a brand new musical celebrating the midwife-woman relationship and also the work of SANDS. Set in a fictional maternity unit, it follows the stories of five women with very different backgrounds as they become mothers, and also the staff who work in the unit.

The musical features songs from several genres including pop, gospel and ballad. There are comic songs and love songs, joyous celebrations of new life and moving laments as two of the characters have difficult experiences.

‘Chrissie’ lost her first baby two years ago and is pregnant again. She had grief counselling from SANDS but is anxious about bonding with this new baby after her previous experience. By the end of the show she has given birth to Megan and found her happy ending.

‘Judy’ is a teenager who did not plan to be pregnant, or for her boyfriend to leave her, but with the support of her parents she is facing the future with hope. Boyfriend Marco returns several months later and begs for another chance, so Judy thinks everything will be fine. However, in Act 2, tragedy strikes when she goes into labour prematurely and is rushed to hospital. The baby is born but there are further complications as Judy begins to haemorrhage and the doctors have to work quickly both to save her and to resuscitate the baby, described in the frenetic song “When the Buzzer Goes”. By the song’s end the bleeding has been stopped but tragically, the baby has not survived. There follows a heartbreaking scene as Judy and Marco begin to come to terms with their loss.

The other Mums to be are Annie and Frieda, both first timers who have very different experiences of labour, and Rachel, an old hand who has a serene water birth with partner Michael during the title song ‘Labour of Love’.

The other central storylines feature the staff of the maternity unit. Student midwife Ruth is in the final year of her studies.  She is deeply affected by Judy’s experience, but is supported by her mentor Alice to reflect and learn from it. Her dialogue in the final scene highlights the passion midwives feel for their work and the dedication they give to their patients. The final song is an uplifting celebration of midwifery and the with-woman relationship.

The show is to be part funded by an Iolanthe foundation grant of £1500; the Elizabeth Duff Award. ‘Labours of Love’ is to be shown at Dumfries Baptist Church Centre from Wednesday 9th to Saturday 12th October 2019. The show will fundraise for the work of SANDS, who have allowed their name to be used in Judy and Chrissie’s stories to highlight the valuable work they do. SANDS will also have a stall in the foyer to provide information on their support services for any audience members affected by the show’s content.

Ren Forteath is a Midwife in the Women and Childrens Directorate of NHS Dumfries and Galloway

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Social Media Labs: Raising the AHP Profile by Laura Lennox

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Someone once said that the best thing about social media is the people you meet. I have connected with some amazing and inspirational people through social media who, in a slightly weird way, I might never meet in person. My experience of using social media in my professional practice has always been positive with the benefits far outweighing any negatives. That’s why I volunteered to be D&G’s regional social media champion for the Allied Health Professions (AHPs). This opportunity arose through the national AHP social media site AHPScot: https://ahpscot.wordpress.com/. There are two main AHP national presences on social media and they are @AHPScot and @AHPdementia. The aim of both is to encourage AHP staff and non AHPs to blog and tweet about the significant role AHPs have in supporting the people of Scotland in their health and wellbeing. Social media is a fantastic resource to showcase areas of innovative pieces of work and share examples of good practice. The blogs reach far and wide with international readership as well as local interactions. I genuinely feel that I am a much more effective practitioner given this wider and broader perspective of clinical effectiveness and person-centred care gained from using social media as a method for enhancing evidence based practice.

The first thing to understand was around how many AHPs locally were using social media in their professional practice. A SurveyMonkey was sent out to 293 people on the Dumfries & Galloway AHP email distribution list and 120 people responded with the following results:

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This information was shared at the local AHP leads and Heads of Service meeting and the idea of local social media ‘labs’ was created as an improvement project that was developed further through Scottish Improvement Skills (SIS) run by D&G Patient Safety and Improvement team. The social media labs are a means for local AHPs to explore and experiment with social media in relation to identified themes around motives, risks and barriers. AHPs are supported to do this in a safe and effective way that is congruent with local organisation social media policy and HCPC professional guidelines:

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As the learning from the social media labs transitions through the AHP workforce in Dumfries & Galloway from early adopters (12%) to early majority, we hope to capture impact and outcomes by encouraging people to use our local hashtag #AHPDG on twitter and through AHPs, not only reading blogs from other AHPs, but writing their own professional blogs in sharing their experiences too.

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The conclusion to this blog is written by Joan Pollard, Associate AHP Director, who gives her own thoughts around the introduction of the social media labs:

Thank you to Laura Lennox for your inspiring words and for your steady and reassuring support. As the Associate Director of AHP here in #AHPDG I would describe myself as a tentative beginner and having had occasion to write a professional blog before Laura’s input there was only one word * terrifying*. Now following the social media labs it is inspiring to see how many of our local AHPs are now committing themselves to reading and writing blogs and with the introduction of our #AHPDG hashtag we now have a building and visible presence on the web.

As confidence has built we have also moved to using social media to support recruitment with positive effect this providing opportunity to meet more amazing and inspiring people in person and on our doorstep. Keep up this amazing work. @JoanPollard1

For further information: laura.lennox@nhs.net @lauralennox6

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Call it what you want, I’ll call it rape. By Wendy Copeland

Rape and sexual assault…. not words we thankfully use or hear every day, however like periods and menopause are finally words that are being talked about more and more openly. We still have a way to go though.

Rape and Sexual assault are finally being debated and discussed, in part thanks to high profile case like Operation Yewtree ,  #metoo  and the anti Trump woman’s marches. These big news stories have helped many survivors of rape and sexual assault come forward. Many of these are historic abuse and more than we care to imagine, are current.  And many more still stay silent.

I am glad to share that I have never experienced what it would feel like, I do however remember with clarity a near miss when I was a child, when my brother barged into the house I was visiting and saved my day…I’ve never told my brother this. I also recall in the summer of 1982 being on a Lothian No 44 bus going to Currie in my favourite Levi mini skirt, when a man felt it was his right to run his hand up my bare thigh…. he did not anticipate the screams of protest and profanities that my small frame at the time could produce . Sadly that mini skirt was binned… I felt violated and dirty and associated what I wore as a trigger. I know better now.

So what’s all this self indulgent disclosure got to do with the NHS Dumfries and Galloway?

The Scottish Government has set out its vision for consistent, person centred, trauma informed healthcare and forensic medical services, and access to recovery for anyone who has experienced rape or sexual assault in Scotland.

Health Improvement Scotland published 5 National Standards that sets out how local NHS boards are responsible for coordinating and delivering health care service for people following rape, sexual assault, or child sexual abuse and for meeting both health and support needs.

The standards cover the following areas:

  • Leadership and governance
  • Person centred trauma informed care
  • Facilities for forensic examinations
  • Education, training and clinical requirements
  • Consistent documentation and data collection

There was some additional asks too, including relocation of forensic examinations out of a police setting, and locate into health.

NHS Dumfries and Galloway Forensic Health Suite will be located within our estates, and will be operational from May 19.  We are being guided by our local FMEs (Forensic Medical Examiners) Police Scotland, Sexual Health team, Public Protection, Scottish Government Taskforce and our local Rape Crisis team.

All our FME’s are trained in trauma informed care and we are working on a solution to ensure that survivors are examined by their gender of choice; this will also include an appropriately trained nurse being present during forensic examinations.

Once we have the physical space operational, we will develop local person centred recovery pathways, enabling survivors to choose at their own their pace, how to access easily, both health and psychological support locally. This will include access to immediate clinical needs and aftercare, and supporting survivors to access specialist provision for one-off advice and information, or support over time.

When this work landed on my desk I was nervous and felt out of my depth… I still do at times. However, I also feel excited and privileged to be involved in an area that impacts many and yet is still spoken in hushed terms or worse, never spoken about…

Wendy Copeland

Project Manager

Nithsdale Locality

 

Local Support

https://www.rape-crisis.org.uk/

https://www.victimsupportsco.org.uk/how-to-find-us/victim-support/victim-support-dumfries-galloway-2/

 

References:

Honouring the Lived Experience

https://www.gov.scot/Publications/2018/10/3324

Healthcare and Forensic Medical Services for People who have experienced Rape, sexual Assault, or Child Sexual Abuse: Children, Young People and Adults

http://www.healthcareimprovementscotland.org/our_work/person-centred_care/resources/sexual_assault_services.aspx

Healthcare and Forensic Medical Services for People who have experienced Rape, sexual Assault, or Child Sexual Abuse: Children, Young People and Adults

http://www.healthcareimprovementscotland.org/our_work/person-centred_care/resources/sexual_assault_indicators.aspx

 

 

 

 

Oh, The PLACEs You’ll Go! By Valerie White

Congratulations!

Today is your day.

You’re off to Great PLACEs!

You’re off and away!

Val 1Since becoming a parent I have been quite amazed by the world of children’s literature and how so many books convey life affirming messages in simple text. Oh, The PLACEs You’ll Go! By Dr Seuss is one such book. For those of you who haven’t read it – and I recommend you do – this is a simple tale about the ups and downs of the journey through life and sows the seeds of the importance of being resilient and keeping going when things get tough. I am sure there are more complex interpretations out there but English was never my strong suit!

You may have noticed that I have highlighted PLACE in the title and that is because PLACE is the crux of this blog.

You would think that working in Public Health, understanding how PLACE affects our health and wellbeing is something I would totally get, and in theory I do, but it is only since we made our recent office move from the Crichton to Mountainhall that I have really and truly reflected on how PLACE and in particular our workPLACE affects our health and wellbeing.

What sparked this reflective mood – well quite frankly it was this – one day I marched (as I tend to do) – up the two flights of stairs in Mountainhall to second floor East and was truly taken aback by the fact that I was totally out of breath!

How could this be?

Well – when I thought about it the answer wasn’t really that complicated – being mum to two young kids, working full time, mostly sitting at a desk or attending meetings and living in a rural area where I use the car most of the time, my physical activity levels were pretty non-existent.

Something had to change!

Val 2So following my wake up call. I have made up my own little goals, that I try to achieve each week – parking a short distance from work and walking in the rest of the way, walking at lunchtime, walking over to someone’s office for a quick chat rather than hitting the send button on nhs.net. I don’t always achieve what I’ve set out to do but it is now becoming more of a routine – and anyone who knows me knows I love routine and tick lists!

So how has Mountainhall the PLACE helped – well it’s much brighter in the office so you can see how nice the day is outside (it really does rain less than you think!). When I go out for a wander I see lots of people from other Directorates, and colleagues often have a nice smile or a few kind words to say or you can catch somebody for that quick word rather than sending another e-mail. The walk to the bathroom and using the stairs also means I do more steps in Mountainhall than I did in the Crichton.

So not only is my increased physical activity at work helping my physical health, it also helps me to connect more with colleagues and quite frankly I am much cheerier at work than I have ever been before.

So you see our PLACEs can affect us in so many ways – often ones we don’t even realise – and that is why it is so important that PLACEs – be that our workPLACEs or our communityPLACEs – are environment that supports people to adopt healthier lifestyles or make healthier choices. I know that myself and fellow colleagues in Public Health are sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) seen as the fun police – “that Public Health lot – they don’t want biscuits at meeting or traybakes at study days, or chocolates given out as tokens of appreciation – why can’t they get a life and live a little”. This isn’t a direct quote from anyone but I know you get my drift.

As I hope this blog is demonstrating myself and colleagues working in Public Health are not all perfect but we do all have a common aspiration that prevention is better than cure and we try to promote and model this. It is not easy – you should see the argy bargy that goes on in my head when faced with a lovely traybake or biscuit at a meeting – but most of time – particularly because my specialist area is dentistry the angel wins – frequent intakes of sugar being a significant risk factor for tooth decay. But, be rest assured that when I go to my book group I enjoy the sweet treats a much as anyone.

The key to most things in life is moderation, but sadly in terms of our diet and physical activity levels we as a society are not doing too well on either count and this is often because our PLACEs and our culture don’t make it easy for us.

But folks – here’s the thing – improving Public Health is not just my business or the business of those working in the specialist public health field it is everybody’s business. If we choose to leave a preventive approach to those working solely in Public Health – we are pretty stuffed, and the levels of chronic conditions, overweight and obesity and Type 2 Diabetes will absolutely overwhelm our services.

It all to difficult and complicated – its our culture to eat sweets and cakes – I hear you cry!

Well it doesn’t need to be – for a start each of us individually can think about actions we could take/conversations we could have to make our workplace healthier, rewards and appreciation can be demonstrated by things other than sweets and cakes, if we get hungry at meetings could fruit rather than biscuits be available – could we do some gentle yoga moves just before the meeting hits the really boring bit – that could actually even be quite amusing, what is available in vending machines when no other catering is available – does this support healthy choices? do I slope off to the vending machine for a chocolate fix mid afternoon when a quick walk might be a better pick me up? Could we actually have a walking meeting rather than sitting in a stuffy meeting room?

There is some really great work going on supporting the Health and Wellbeing of our workforce so lets also make our workPLACEs a Great PLACE that supports us to make healthier choices as we navigate this wonderful journey of life.

So……

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,

you’re off to Great PLACEs!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So ……..get on your way!

 

For more information on holding healthy meetings, hints and tips on how to increase your physical activity levels at work. Please see the links below.

Healthy Ireland Meeting Guidelines – https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/healthwellbeing/healthy-ireland/publications/meeting-guidelines-final.pdf

WHO – Planning healthy and sustainable meetings –  http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/373172/healthy-meetings-eng.pdf?ua=1

NHS website – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-active-your-way/#

And if you have 5 more minutes the link below is a youtube video of the reading of Oh, The PLACEs You’ll Go!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6ZeZA6wF-k

 

Valerie White is Consultant in Dental Public Health and Public Health in NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

 

Are we aware yet? by Julie Garton

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This week is Dementia Awareness Week in Scotland and Monday saw the Alzheimer Scotland Conference rise to the occasion with over 800 delegates descending on the Edinburgh International Conference Centre for a day which never fails to inspire and remind those of us who work in dementia care what a privilege it is to do what we do. With the theme of:

Prevent now, Care today, Cure tomorrow

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There was a range of sessions looking at the importance of brain health, research and living well with dementia, delivered positively whilst never taking away the devastating impact that dementia can have on families.

Garton 3On a day where Donald Trump landed and considering the state of the political landscape, it was heartening to see this headline on day one of Dementia Awareness Week and even more heartening to read a balanced and factual article.

The prevalence of dementia is increasing worldwide, with a predicted increase from 35.6 million in 2010 to 115.4 million in 2050 – someone is diagnosed every 3 seconds and led the English Health Department to say that:

among the over 55’s, dementia is feared more than any other illness’

 

But what if we could do something about this? Whilst we can’t do anything about our age or the genes we inherit from our parents, there are factors that can increase or reduce our risk of developing dementia in later life.

Evidence exists that depression, Type 2 Diabetes, smoking, mid life hypertension, mid life obesity, physical inactivity and low educational attainment can increase our risk of developing dementia in later life.

What’s good for your heart is good for your brain

Eating a Mediterranean style diet, keeping socially engaged, learning new things, sleeping well, alcohol in moderation and being physically active can be regarded as good things that we can do to reduce our risk and act as protective factors as we age.

But it’s also recognised that the public need to be more aware about how a health promotion approach can have a significant impact on dementia.

Stigma and discrimination still exists in our communities and care services and although for around ten years, dementia awareness education has been delivered in a variety of ways by a wide range of providers but there is still some way to go.

It was heartening to hear Claire Haughey, Minister for Mental Health and Henry Simmons, Chief Executive recognise the impact and value  of Dementia Champions and Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Nurse Consultants, read our Annual Report here, on the progress thats been made so far. Dementia Champions keep updated by attending a yearly update, accessing the Champions closed Facebook page, and knowing who to contact for advice and support, but it is a challenge for other staff across health and social services to keep abreast of what’s going on.

Helen Moores Poole, Speech and Language Therapist with the IDEAS Team has some tips on keeping up to date with what’s happening in dementia care.

‘You can complete the Dementia Informed level of the Promoting Excellence Framework  http://www.knowledge.scot.nhs.uk/home/portals-and-topics/dementia-promoting-excellence/framework/about-the-framework.aspx and move onto Dementia Skilled level of the Promoting Excellence Framework as a next step, but staying aware can be really difficult when you have a million and one demands on your time and you’re a busy clinician. Staying up to date and current is a continuous process, and you can quickly become out of date, particularly in the field of dementia research, thoughts and campaigning. New discoveries are happening all the time, for example a new form of dementia ‘Late’ was discovered only last month. Find out more here.

Social Media is a great way to stay current and informed with what’s going on, to network and link in with professionals both within and without your specialist field. Building up your digital base means that when you have a couple of minutes to spare you can catch up with new ideas; it’s great to dip in and out of. If you’re a Facebook user we try to curate the best of what’s available on the IDEAS Facebook page, our focus is particularly on managing distress and what’s happening in D&G.

For bite size info and links, nothing beats Twitter and I regularly forward tweets to my work email to forward onto people! Here are some of our top tips for people to follow:

 

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Dumfries & Galloway has over 3000 people currently living with dementia and we have the same challenges as the rest of Scotland in encouraging people who are worried to go to their GP, but this Dementia Awareness Week has made me increasingly optimistic that even if a cure is some way away, we are making progress, and thats good for us as individuals, for the people living with dementia who come into our services, our families and colleagues.

So are we aware yet?

Not quite, there is still an awareness gap, a knowledge gap, stigma and fear of this disease doesn’t help us when we are worried about our memory to step forward and seek help.

Please show your support in any of the following ways:

  1. Join Alzheimer Scotland https://www.alzscot.org/
  2. Become a Dementia Friend https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/register-digital-friend
  3. Sign up to Dementia Research at https://www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk/
  4. Do Dementia Informed and/or Skilled through Learnpro

And a final plea from me to do something good for yourself — get a Power of Attorney! https://www.mygov.scot/power-of-attorney/

Julie Garton, Alzheimer Scotland, Dementia Nurse Consultant – jgarton@nhs.net

Follow me on Twitter @gartju27

Helen Moores-Poole, Speech and Language Therapist, IDEAS Team

Garton 5

 

24 hour Dementia Helpline

Freephone 0808 808 3000

Making sure nobody faces dementia alone

Julie Garton is an Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Nurse Consultant for NHS Dumfries and Galloway