This time of year is always a bit frantic in general practice, making sure as many QOF points as possible have been gathered before the end of the month – so for Rhona Aikman it was great to have a study day last week for the annual Nursing in Practice Event in Glasgow.
I have attended NIP Events for the last few years as a delegate, but this was my first time helping to chair one of the streams. Fortunately, I had Sue Spencer there as well, as she is an old hand at this!
The SECC is an excellent venue for this type of event and there was a large crowd of approximately 700 delegates. The programme had looked excellent and I don't think anyone was disappointed. Many practices no longer see reps from drug companies, so it is also an excellent opportunity to get information leaflets for patients, vaccination record books and see what new products are available. A lot of networking also takes place at these events.
The topics were all very current and some of my friends and colleagues could not decide which sessions to go to, as they all looked interesting. Professor Lorraine Smith's "Stroke update", followed by Colin Cosgrove's "Blood pressure: medicine, measurement and management for 2009" were very popular. With the launch this year of the new vascular risk screening programme, these sessions were very topical.
I was glad to be chairing the stream for the presentation by Norma Evans on rabies. One of my particular areas of interest is travel health, so I was looking forward to this. She was an excellent speaker and very informative for anyone involved in giving travel immunisation advice. As rabies is not normally present in the UK, British travellers may be unaware of the serious risks this disease poses and what to do in the event of a bite or scratch from an animal in countries where rabies is endemic.
Tragically, this was highlighted earlier this year when a woman from Northern Ireland died from rabies. It is thought her exposure to the disease took place in an animal sanctuary in South Africa where she had done some voluntary work. Pre-exposure immunisation would be recommended for this type of high-risk traveller.
I spent most of my childhood living in Hong Kong, which in those days would have been considered an area with a risk of rabies. I can still remember talking with friends about the huge injections we would get if we were bitten, and it was enough to make even an animal lover like myself steer clear of stray dogs.
The afternoon got off to a great start, with performances from the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival community groups. The session was titled Winning Arts and Minds and was excellent. It ended with the whole audience involved in a musical performance using plastic tubes, keys and pens and paper.
Alcohol is a hot topic at the moment, and Scotland has an even bigger problem than other parts of the UK, so Nick Fuller's aptly titled presentation "Where's the harm in a wee swallie?" was popular. The figures for alcohol-related deaths and offending behaviour were even worse than I thought. It is certainly a problem that needs a strategic approach. Practices nurses in Glasgow and Clyde have has some brief intervention training for alcohol – my only problem is trying to do this alongside all the other contract work we are already doing.
The final session in stream 2, "Tackling the bigger issues", was one of the winners of a Nursing in Practice award last year. Ruth and Paula outlined setting up and running a nurse-led healthy lifestyle clinic in primary care. They had convincing, up-to-date data showing the benefits a modest amount of weight loss can bring to an individual and also in terms of savings in healthcare resources.
Most of us will have at least some experience of trying to assist patients with healthy eating and weight reduction. In my practice we estimate that we have been seeing one new type 2 diabetic a week since the beginning of the year. Nearly all of these people are overweight and if only weight loss could be achieved, fewer drugs for the treatment of diabetes would be required.
The speakers had audited the outcomes of patients who had taken part in the Counterweight programme. Nurse time is the main cost, but when considered in terms of the bigger long-term costs, the service seems very effective.
All those I spoke to at the end of the day seemed to have enjoyed the sessions. I find it increasingly hard to keep up to date, and days like this certainly help. Patients often use the internet as a resource and come in armed with sheaves of paper they have printed off. So it was back to work the next day playing catch-up and trying to fit two days' work into one. Some things never change …!
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