Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Training, TV & TT Times

Things beginning with T.

Training at Elland Road
I was always a little nervous and never fully looked forward to delivering training sessions. Will people turn up? Will they engage and react as we planned? Have we all the resources on hand? Will we actually get the correct messages across and will the learning we are trying to pass on be useful?

That has changed somewhat after having the pleasure of working alongside Charlie Murphy in developing and refining the training for the sporting memories projects across England and Scotland over the last five months. There's still the worries of have I brought everything along and will folk turn up of course, but gone are the nerves as to whether the sessions will engage and get people sharing thoughts and ideas. We've recently trained over ninety people in Leeds and last week we brought a group of those back together as part of the action learning model we are now using on projects. I have to confess to having butterflies once more before the session, as this was to explore how or indeed if, people were using the resources following training, what they thought of the training and what they would change.

The energy in the room was just fantastic and the feedback was truly uplifting. A favourite quote was that one delegate would have loved the session to have lasted at least another hour as they enjoyed the practical experiences on reminiscence so much fun. The project in Leeds is being evaluated by Dr Michael Clark of the Personal Social Services Research Unit, London School of Economics and I'm really looking forward to seeing how such a diverse range of people and services (from care homes to leisure centres) develop the use of the approach and what impact it has on those participating in the activities.


We occasionally receive invites to attend sports events and in August we headed to Silverstone. Having met with and gained the support of the British Racing Drivers' Club in June, we headed South to the Classic Weekend meeting. On the first evening there was a wonderful dinner to celebrate 50 years since Jim Clark won the British GP for the first time. We were fortunate to be sat on a table with some of the great man's relatives, friends and fans. A chat with one gentleman who had travelled over from the Isle of Man just for the dinner as he had idolised Clark, led to an invite for us to go talk sporting memories on the island later in the year.

It was my first visit and I certainly hope not my last. What a beautiful place. Whilst much of our time was spent in meetings and presentations, our gracious host kicked off our second day on the island with a 37 and 3/4 mile tour of the TT course. How anyone can learn a course that long and that challenging is beyond me. With absolutely no margin for error, no 'run off' and a scary amount of solid walls and houses the current lap record is an average of over 130mph for the whole lap, just incredible. A spectacle I really must try to see one day. The memories recalled by many we met virtually all included one essential ingredient. Castrol R....

A spectacular drive to work on the mountain road!

During my time working on national mental health programmes, I was involved in making several podcasts on various topics working closely with a film crew. Until this week however, I'd never appeared on the other side of the camera and on-screen. Heading across to take part in Estuary TV's weekly sports show 'On the Bench' I started to plan what I'd say and how I'd respond to various questions I'd anticipated.

They are a very professional and friendly crew at the station, after introductions and a briefing it was time for make-up (please make me look ten years younger....) and then into the studio and on to the couch with fellow guest Andy Carr and regular presenter Rachel Chadwick.

Rachel Chadwick, Andy Carr & me!
It was fascinating to see how autocue works and I was put totally at ease by all in the studio, so much so I probably ended up a bit too relaxed and for a rare moment completely forgot what on earth I was meant to be talking about... Thanks to some skilful editing most of the points I actually planned to cover were included! The main talking point was the launch of the Grimsby Town memories game, which is on Thursday 19th December, their home league match v Kidderminster Harriers. More info at:

We are really looking forward to working with the club and community to raise awareness of dementia and to celebrate the history and heritage of The Mariners

Sunday, 23 June 2013

12 months of collaboration across the twitter nation

Following on from my last musings of 21 years of nursing and perhaps inspired by the Department of Health's dementia roadshows in Newcastle and Leeds that we had the pleasure of presenting the Sporting Memories work at, a few thoughts on collaboration,  knowledge sharing and a celebration of 12 months of the Replay Websites

I believe it was no coincidence that all the ten minute presentations show casing excellence in developing dementia care across the North East & Yorkshire all included common themes: partnership working, knowledge sharing and collaboration. These encompass an approach and value I hold dear and one that we have built into the very heart of the work we are developing at the Sporting Memories Network 

A quick tot up of people who have attended training sessions for city wide or county wide projects, shows that in the last 9 months alone we have engaged with over one hundred organisations, whose staff and volunteers are now involved in promoting the mental and physical well-being of local older people, including those living with dementia and depression, through sports based reminiscence. This figure is set to double in the next couple of months as the new projects in Leeds & Bristol/South Gloucestershire come to life.

In addition to the involvement of health and social care providers and the 3rd sector, we've been blown away by the response by professional sports clubs, Premiership football clubs, Football League clubs, Super League, Cricket, Rugby Union, Motorsport bodies and individual sports men and women. Over 20 clubs/teams and sports bodies are now working with us, in addition to the 52 supporters listed on the website, over 400 stars, celebrities, journalists and writers have come together to share memories to support older fans. There is a real momentum gathering, reflected in the wonderful conversations we have been able to have with commissioners and senior public figures, who are recognising the multiple benefits of becoming involved in the network. Of course there are always challenges to overcome, it is perhaps natural given the financial climate we are living with, that not every organisation wishes to collaborate or create partnerships, competition for funding is becoming ever more dog eat dog. My own thoughts on this is that through collaborating and involving multiple organisations, the projects we are commissioned to plan and deliver become ever more sustainable if there are multiple stakeholders included and therefore wider community 'ownership' in the work. What also comes from the approach is an amazing exchange of innovative thinking and approaches, a platform to test new ideas and a brilliant opportunity to share success.

Away from the 'day job' of delivering the community projects, there has been a busy summer of sport with memorable victories at Wimbledon, the British and Irish Lions tour and The Ashes being amongst those put into the memory bank.  There are countless opportunities to continue conversations with sports fans about older people, well-being and dementia. One major event in July took place on the doorstep of our Scottish offices. The British Open saw golf fans arriving from across the UK and The World.

Whilst our 'on the ground' projects embrace more traditional approaches to collaboration, Twitter continues to offer another vibrant opportunity to connect with those who are determined to make a real difference. It will be 12 months tomorrow since we launched our suite of Replay sites to gather memories of sport. Thanks to the wonderful support of David Coulthard, John Inverdale and Sam Torrance, to name but 3 stars who helped launch the sites, over 2,000 submissions have been made since we switched them on on the first day of Wimbledon 2012. I'm constantly amazed by the generosity of people who offer articles, memories and to help promote the work, it really is truly humbling

Twitter has been central to raising awareness of the sites and network. Everyday the world of twitter has shown fantastic support, with people re-tweeting memories and news stories, helping us raise awareness of memories games or encouraging fans to add more stories. In one day alone, particularly through the efforts of all on Twitter, over 10 million impressions were made across social media of the Replay sites and memories, a statistic that I find simply astounding for a project with its roots firmly in dementia care.

Collaboration across the nation? Not arf.

Carry on Tweeting!


Saturday, 25 May 2013

21 years. Time to reflect

21 years ago this month I set out on a new career, training to be a psychiatric nurse. I'd not particularly bothered with school in my early years nor had school bothered with me, we agreed to mutually part company when I was 13, moving to 'home education' which mostly consisted of playing sports. Exams hadn't been on the agenda either, so I was fortunate that nursing allowed those without academic qualifications to sit the 'DC Test'. Knowing very little about healthcare and even less about psychiatry, my first placement on a ward was only the second time in my life I'd set foot in a hospital (the 1st occasion was a result of concussion from a playground collision whilst playing 'Bulldogs'). I'd somehow come to the conclusion before stepping out as a student nurse that I'd make a great CPN working in forensic services and was pleased to find out my first placement was to be on a busy working age 'acute' ward. Six weeks of working on the ward, it was time to head back to college, to prepare for the next placement. Older Peoples Mental Health, or, as one staff nurse put it, 'enjoy your 6 weeks of wiping wrinkly bums'. Oh joy, not only was I going to be nursing older people, but I'd been allocated a mixed ward, which was staffed by RGNs & RMNs, some beds were medical, some psychiatry. Nightmare.

First day on the ward & something happened that was to shape the rest of my career, I met a 'patient' (that was the term used back then) who had dementia. She was called Grace. Grace was a bit of a handful for the staff, forever wandering around the ward, asking repetitive questions, wanting to know when she was going home. As I was 'an extra pair of hands' on the ward, I was asked to spend a lot of time with Grace, which I did and the more I got to know her, the more fascinated I became. I was hooked.

Training flew past and soon I found myself applying for my first staff nurse post. Bingo, got a job on a dementia care ward, which was about to relocate from an old asylum hospital to one of the new 'CUE' units. Loved it, enjoyed it, experienced the move and six months later spotted an advert for a senior staff nurse post. Got it and dropped so lucky. Within two weeks of starting in post, a colleague had to drop out of a training course at Bradford University about 'Dementia Care Mapping' which was to be co-facilitated by someone called Professor Tom Kitwood. What a course, what a concept. What an inspiring man.

Armed with this new knowledge, my next post was managing a unit in a dementia care home. It remains one of my favourite times looking back. It was a small, 16 bed unit that pretty much relied on dishing out Thioridazine & Diazepam to keep the residents 'quiet & content' or chemically coshed. I was lucky enough to be able to recruit some great care assistants and a couple of new RMN's to replace the old team who chose to move on and we agreed on a vision to work towards. We opened doors to the beautiful rear garden, we ended the routine of night staff getting people up on a morning, meals were available when people were hungry & we all spent time talking, sitting or playing activities with the people living in the unit. Within three months we saw significant reductions in prescribing of medication and after six months we'd eradicated all psychotropic medication. None of it was rocket science.

Possibly the most surreal moment looking back was during my time as a clinical team manager, leading a unit that had an inpatient dementia care facility, day hospital and community teams based in the building. All our staff team on the inpatient unit were trained in dementia care mapping as part of their induction when joining the unit. As a result, we were visited by some of the team from Bradford, who were hosting a delegation from the Japanese government, who arrived accompanied by interpreters and a film crew from their own TV channel! The hilarity at lunch time when we served our guests giant Yorkshire Puddings filled with beef and gravy will live with me forever. It was certainly a dish none of them had encountered before.

Having enjoyed my time as a clinical lead, it was time to try my hand at a new challenge. As luck would have it, a few miles up the road, there was an advert for a project manager to work across 4 PCT's on something called the Dementia Services Collaborative. Improving dementia services by consulting with and working alongside people living with dementia, their carers and staff. What a job! After two years, our team were fortunate to receive a lovely award from the Alzheimer's Society recognising their work. I'd got a taste of how collecting and sharing knowledge could really influence and lead to positive change. A part time post came up working for the National Institute for Mental Health in England on the older people programme in Yorkshire & Humberside. It was just one day a week, meantime an amazing chance came up to join a local team to work on improving the physical environment of a CUE unit that was for men living with dementia. The unit team was to take part in the King's Fund Enhancing the Healing Environment programme and WOW, was that life changing. Led by Sarah Waller, the course was so inspiring. We were taught about the influence colour can have on mood, how good building design can influence care pathways and healing. We visited Tate Modern and had a half day with one of the curators. We were taught to sing, we were videoed, we met table top magicians and a jazz singer who entertained us over dinner one night revealed herself the following day in further learning sessions to be CEO of a PCT! At the end of the course, we had to present our idea for the unit to an audience including Sarah. The team were somewhat reluctant to speak so I hit on the idea of making an automated powerpoint presentation set to music. I'd stumbled into making a digital story without knowing what one was! Set to Underworld's Born Slippy, it seemed to strike a chord with those in the room and it was a real thrill to hear the programme subsequently used it at the launch of future programmes.

A chance opportunity to show the story to the national lead for OPMH led to a new role with NIMHE, which had by now become part of the Care Services Improvement Partnership. Another stroke of luck. Within a week of starting the post, a spare place was available on a course to become an accredited knowledge manager (KM). Using the learning and techniques of KM my geeky side took over and working with the national lead, I had an absolute ball in building a website to share good practice. I was lucky to meet and work alongside some truly inspiring and visionary people, one particular highlight being involved in the launch of the Let's Respect campaign. This was a brilliant learning resource for acute hospitals, covering the 3 D's of Dementia, Depression & Delirium. We hit on the idea of filming interviews with people talking about their experiences of living with these conditions and the Let's Respect series of podcasts were born. At the same time, a group of us began a piece of work which resulted in the first 'product' of the newly announced national dementia strategy. Being on the editorial board of Strengthening the Involvement of people with dementia and their carers was a real learning experience and something I really enjoyed.

One little ditty I enjoyed putting together to try to show how networks, KM and the web could be effective was this 4 minute digital story 

Later Life Networks from Evolution Networking on Vimeo.

When the National Mental Health Development Unit was born, an opportunity appeared to work across all their programmes as knowledge and online lead. Geekdom, mental health, service improvement & a chance to work with a team of people absolutely driven by a determination to make things happen. Two years passed so quickly, in the final six months another chance to join an editorial board, Let's Respect for care homes was published.

My techy geeky side began to come out more and when the unit was closed, an opportunity to work with some great people led to an Australian adventure. Sadly my geekiness meant I only ever visited the country virtually, whilst working with the government in Western Australia on their vision for mental health. Keeping my hand in with dementia care, I'd joined forces with a number of folk who had an interest in the use of Life Stories & following the first national conference, co-founded the Life Story Network. After successfully delivering a government backed training programme on the use of life story to 500 people across England, I stepped down as a director to pursue other interests.

One of those interests included using some of my learning to write my first ever chapter in a publication. I was proud to be asked by Hari Sewell to share some of my thoughts on the use of technology and knowledge management in his book; The Equality ACT 2010 in Mental Health: A Guide to Implementation and Issues for Practice

Thanks to those 6 weeks of 'wiping wrinkly bums' I've had the most amazing journey in a career I've loved. Hopefully that journey will continue to be as enjoyable

Sporting Memories Network CIC