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Art – is there any science to it?

16 Oct


The Nest, a one-off theatre production commissioned by NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC and written and produced by Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company, examines the opinion-dividing topic of sharing health records. The interactive show is taking place at Z-ARTS on Thursday 29 October at 19.15 and free tickets can be booked online.

As a preview to the play, John Tomlinson, Producer of Strawberry Blonde Curls, gives his perspective on mixing science and the arts in this latest venture.

“If someone were to ask me why I love the arts, I’d probably say it’s because they are inspiring, courageous and unpredictable – there’s no science to it. I mean, there’s no science to what makes good art, unless you make a piece of art about science. Lost? I’ll explain.

I’ve always been in love with making theatre and performance happen, it’s the most satisfying job I could have wished for. Lucky for me, that’s what I do for a living. Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company has been part of my life since Rosie MacPherson and I set it up after graduating from The University of Salford in 2010. We wanted to make theatre our way, dramas through strong, intelligent, emotional characters that twist and turn to explore issues that people don’t talk about, or express. The arts do that; they give you a platform to make something truthful and real, something that can put your stamp on – a theme, a subject or a genre.

I’ve always been someone who talks about what I do, because the passion oozes out of me. So when I find myself at an event about Arts-Science collaboration earlier this year, I talk, and listen and talk some more. I talk to everyone, but I listen more than I talk. I always remember a colleague of mine once told me that if you need a plumber, you know you’re going to pass one that day, you just have to find who it is. Producing theatre is very much that; my role is to find brilliant creative people – actors, writers, directors, designers, composers – and fuse together the best mixture. Finding the right components and do an educated experiment, you could say. So when you’re at an event like that Arts-Science collaboration session, it’s perfect and this is why I’m writing this blog. I met some of the Greater Manchester PSTRC team who wanted to produce an engaging project with researchers, who want to make something different – to challenge themselves, as well as present results of their work. We’re on the same page and I tell them that we’re right for the job. I can get a masterful team together to get to grips with the brief, understand the content and you know what, it’ll be a challenge for us as well. Excellent. If this had been a simple task, I probably wouldn’t have been interested – we’re a company that wants to produce relevant, timely, new pieces of work and this is definitely one of those.

So, in a similar way to a scientist carefully examining the fine details of their elements to bring them all together (without something exploding), that’s what I’ve been doing. The script of this piece is crucial, the venue, the environment and everyone making it has to understand the core values of why we’re making this show. It’s a one off, it’s limited capacity and it’ll be over in a flash – but for the next month, it’ll be the most important thing we do.

As I said, there’s no science to it. The arts are so exciting and unpredictable that trying to understand the science of what happens when people are absorbed by, and engaged with, an exceptional piece of drama, is what everyone is trying to research. The artist, or scientist that discovers that, will be remembered for a long, long time.”

Sharing and Searching for Safety Sake: A new RUG member’s view of the 2nd Greater Manchester PSTRC annual research symposium

18 Sep

by Tony Russell-Pattison, member of the core Research User Group (RUG)


Peter Walsh, Chief Executive of AvMA, presents at the symposium

Wednesday the 1st of July was the hottest day of the year so far and it felt it. It was good therefore to arrive at the relatively chilled Midland Hotel where an excellent number and diversity of delegates were gathering for this symposium.

Stephen Campbell (Centre Lead) welcomed us all with an overview of the day and the centre’s work in general. Time was to be tight if we were to get the most out of of the next four hours or so, but this was managed well.

Fittingly, the day commenced and was grounded in the real life stories of real life patients. Terri Loughman shared her story of dual mental and physical diagnosis and its traumatic mistreatment when care agencies failed to communicate effectively, to her detriment. Mother and son, James and Lynne Sweetman, shared via video the anguish of late diagnosis of testicular cancer after repeated and failed attempts to seek assistance from GPs. The importance of belief in the patient’s concerns rather than automatic and, in this case, inaccurate reassurance was highlighted. Most poignantly painful, however, was Nic Hart’s recounting of the last months of his daughter Averil’s life, who died of complications arising from Anorexia Nervosa. The catalogue of missed opportunities and events that should never have happened to this young lady was hard to take in. The appreciation of how stressful and traumatic life was for her family after her death, as they were thwarted in trying to find the truth about Averil’s death by systems and agencies, was no less hard to hear. The courage of all the speakers in sharing their accounts was obvious. As a new RUG core group member who recently attended his first meeting, I was struck by how quickly I got subsumed into the professionalism of the proceedings, the academic language and the acronyms. These encounters with patients’ stories helped me realign myself back to the mindset of a patient with something to say. Such personal encounters benefit not only professional staff but also those of us who seek to have patients’ voices heard.

We were then introduced to some of the centre’s PhD students who gave us an overview of the doctoral research projects they are undertaking under the aegis of the centres professors. Inevitably, there was a lot to take in, in a short time, none the less:-

  • Shoba Dawson shared her investigation of the involvement of minority ethnic groups in Health Service research
  • Paolo Fraccaro was investigating how patient and computers interact when patients access their lab results on line and how they interpret those results.
  • Hayley Gorton recounted her study into how medications may be related to unnatural deaths.
  • Reinis Jones was looking at junior doctors’ patient safety learning experiences.
  • Christian Thomas asked the question “how are policies and procedures viewed by community pharmacy staff”?
  • Tina Wulff introduced the relatively new concept of “knowledge mobilisation” and was investigating how this was being used in general practice.

The clarity and succinct delivery of each presentation was much appreciated by us all, and the speakers were available for questions over coffee. Having joined RUG only recently, I had received a good introduction which had me thinking that I had grasped the four theme approach. This unravelled somewhat at the first meeting where the numerous threads within each theme became evident. These presentations (along with the newsletter which I received in July) gave me a much clearer view of the breadth and variety of research being undertaken.

Following this there were a number of breakout sessions. I chose the one on Patients’ Views of Patient Safety, where Sally Giles and Penny Lewis presented preliminary findings of their interviews which sought to examine patients’ understanding and experiences of medication safety in primary care, which seemed to indicate patients as valuable sources of information in this area. They were joined by Rebecca Hays who discussed the outcomes of her first discussion group.

Our last speaker of the day was Peter Walsh (Chief Executive of “Action Against Medical Accidents” ) He spoke passionately about the organisations involvement in the Mid Staffs enquiry and the subsequent Francis Report which enshrined in law the “duty of candour” but highlighted the problems of the premise being defined differently for acute and primary care. He summarised the whole day when he identified what patients want as safety, justice, better (not more) regulation and openness and transparency.

Wonder Drugs Roadshow – a success

23 Jan

Mosi 2014_children buttons activity

Earlier in the year we set ourselves the challenge of getting out to new communities to talk about the Greater Manchester PSTRC’s work on Medication Safety. Our main aim was to show the public how important it is to check their medicines to increase patient safety.

A team soon formed, which included researchers, RUG members and people specialising in public engagement and we dreamt up ideas and created activities that would get people thinking. We wanted to engage with people of all ages and with different interests, so we needed to be inventive.

Our efforts resulted in the Wonder Drugs Roadshow being held as part of Manchester Science Festival.

Our first outing with the roadshow took us to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). Research User Group member Carolyn Gamble had been part of the planning group for the series of events and welcomed the opportunity to be able to facilitate some of the activities at MOSI; “What a fantastic experience, we had hundreds of families join in the activities – literally hundreds!  I had some engaging conversations with people of all ages throughout the day about medication safety.  I mainly facilitated the prescription filling activity whereby people could step into the role of a pharmacist, and fill out a prescription using buttons and a pill box.  Kids of ages were excited  to wear lab coats, read the instructions carefully and fill out the prescription against the clock accurately– many had a return visit to see if they could “beat”  their previous attempt, or each other!   It was loads of fun for everyone involved, whilst at the same time we were able to deliver our medication safety messages to people in a memorable fashion.”

At the Forum Centre in Wythenshawe, latest recruit to the RUG Jackie Nightingale joined us. She said “This was my first experience of being involved in this kind of event and it was a really enjoyable and positive experience. I honestly think that we had a positive impact on those that came to talk to us, in getting them to think more about their own prescriptions, how they are issued and dispensed and the things they can do to look after themselves.”

The final stop on the Roadshow was in Salford, at the Pendleton Gateway Centre. Here we were joined by RUG member Faith Mann who commented; “Pendleton Gateway isn’t the sort of place where people willingly stop to talk to anyone standing behind an exhibition stand, in case they’re trying to sell something, so we had to actively engage passers-by. Once they knew what we were doing, people were happy to stop to talk and try the quizzes.   The most powerful activity was the prescription checking quiz. People were shocked to find they’d missed some of the errors and picked up the message that we need to take responsibility for checking our prescriptions and not leave it all up to the pharmacist and dispenser – lovely though they are!”

Across the three venues we visited we spoke with over a thousand people from different corners of Greater Manchester. Many of whom had stories to tell us about problems they’ve had with their own medicines and they explained to us how they went about dealing with those problems.

We are extremely grateful to Kate Dack and her team from Nowgen for helping to stage this series of events, to the staff and students at Manchester Health Academy School who designed and made artwork about the safety of medicines to showcase at the roadshow and to our own Pharmacist and PhD Student, Hayley Gorton who designed a range of activities to get people actively involved in the work of the PSTRC.

Asthma still kills: how might this be prevented?

20 Jun

by Christian Thomas, PhD student in Medication Safety theme Image Last month the National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) released figures regarding 195 people who died as a result of asthma in the UK. The report, which reviewed asthma deaths from February 2012 – January 2013 found that death could have been avoided in nearly half of patients. The importance of people with asthma being informed about their illness in order to avoid preventable death was emphasized. Significant improvements to the way asthma is treated have been made over the last 50 years. On the one hand, it is important that health professionals are up to date with evidence based medicine. Equally important, is that patients and parents or carers of those who suffer with asthma, do everything possible to avoid preventable deaths such as making sure medicines are taken correctly and being prepared for factors in the environment which may affect asthma symptoms. As part of the NRAD, asthma patients were urged to be aware of their triggers e.g. such as hay fever; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs e.g. ibuprofen; smoking; minimising time spent around other people smoking; attend or book an asthma review with GP/nurse at least once a year and to make sure to have been given a personal asthma action plan as these have been shown to improve asthma care. Crucially, people with asthma must ensure preventative inhaled corticosteroids are taken as directed by their prescriber. Parents and/or carers of children with asthma are encouraged to explain ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘when’ the child should be using their inhalers as well as how to spot when their asthma is not controlled. Children must be aware of not only when to call for emergency services but how to do so. Asthma hospitalizes 65,316 people a year in the UK and is known to affect people of any age. Although commonly associated with children or with those in old age, the NRAD reported the median age at the time of initial diagnosis of asthma was 37 years old in those who died. 69 percent of patients in the review were diagnosed after the age of 15 years. Asthma should not be dismissed as a cause of respiratory symptoms. If you or someone you know is suffering from wheeziness, breathlessness, chest tightness or a cough (especially during the night) ensure to visit the GP or nurse. Once diagnosed, a pharmacist can also assist with ensuring an inhaler is taken correctly. A recent review of 906 people with asthma who received advice regarding their inhaler technique from their pharmacist in Greater Manchester, found over half of survey respondents felt that their quality of life had improved for using the service. References GRAY, N., LONG, N. C., MENSAH, N. 2014. Report of the Evaluation of the Greater Manchester Community Pharmacy Inhaler Technique Service. LEVY et al., 2014. Why asthma still kills – The National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) Confidential Enquiry report. London: Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership.

Public Engagement event – 27 March 2014

14 May

by Carolyn Gamble, Research User Group (RUG) member with an affiliation to General Practice theme


As part of the Greater Manchester Primary Care Patient Safety Centre Research User Group (RUG), and working under the General Practice Theme, I had the opportunity to be involved in the organisation and facilitation of the public engagement event. Working with Nowgen, we put on an event at the Manchester Museum surrounding the patient and public perception and ideas on ‘Never Events’ in primary care.

The event had a great turn out! Approximately 50 people attended, a diverse audience of both public and patients from across the Greater Manchester area, and various industry professionals in research and clinical care, all willing and ready to share their views about patient safety and never events.

Bella Starling (Director of Public Programmes, Nowgen) opened the evening with a warm welcome and introduction to the event. Professor Stephen Campbell (Greater Manchester PSTRC Lead) presented the first edit of a new film about the Greater Manchester PSTRC – which will be made available on our website after titles and music have been added.

Professor Campbell also introduced the work of the Patient Safety Centre, our aims and objectives and how the public plays a huge role in this project, and how people can get more involved in this fantastic work.

Dr Sudeh Cheraghi-Sohi, (Research Fellow for the General Practice Theme) presented information and updates about the current research into ‘Never Events in General Practice’, and the need for the list to be developed further.

She explained that the research being undertaken is setting out to define a list of “Never Events” that occur in a GP setting – which is a first, as currently there is no defined list for Primary Care. There is a provisional list, of 10 potential “Never Events” in General practice developed in Scotland. Dr Cheraghi-Sohi asked the group their opinions, thoughts and feedback on this list, and asked for views on any other types of events that people wanted to add to the list.

We all entered into round table discussions for everyone to have their say.   A lot of these discussions revolved around medication or prescribing errors, nature and severity of GP errors and how service delivery standards could affect patient safety. Some individuals even felt comfortable enough to share personal experiences of suffering “Never Events” while under their GP’s care. To me, this means we created a good open, supportive atmosphere for generating what could be sensitive discussions.

Each table fed back their top ideas and themes.   All written input from the audience will be analysed and considered by the research team – it will be interesting to see if any trends come out of all the discussions! People had a lot to say on the subject, and seemed eager for more information and ways to become involved in this important research.

Our lovely Chair, Ailsa Donnelly wrapped up the event by speaking about the RUG and how patients and public can become more involved with us. Ailsa’s talk about the RUG was motivating and encouraging!   I really enjoyed speaking with different people, gaining an understanding of their views, and promoting the research of the Centre and membership of the RUG. When I watched each of the presentations at the event, it made me feel proud to be a part of the Greater Manchester PSTRC and reminded me of how important the research is that is being undertaken at the Centre and the impact it will have on the safety of patients in Primary Care.