Working together – Primary Care and Public Health 2016

Working together in health care is so important, and where are all the OTs? These are my main take away points from the Primary Care and Public Health conference 2016.

Wednesday morning at the NEC, Birmingham; the Exhitbition Hall was buzzing with thousands of people and almost 200 stands displaying health care related organisations, products and brands. The range was incredible: mother and baby, rare illnesses such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, skin care, nutrition, cancer, older people and much more. At the back of the hall were small “theatres” with bitesize presentations about the body, skin and nutrition. What a lot to take in and explore – so what did I discover?

Where are all the OTs?

The range in the Exhibition Hall also reflected the amazing variety of presentations available to attend. Twenty one different programmes ran across the two days and I heard talks from, and spoke with, GPs, Practice Managers, Physios, Speech and Language Therapists, Social Workers, Dietitians, Nurses..! Everyone apart from OTs!

There was a “Therapy” programme which had some interesting talks but the vast majority of speakers were Physiotherapists. So if any of you are OTs who attended, I’d love to hear how you found it! As a profession, we have so much to shout about, let’s hope next year we can have more of a presence!

Working together for quality care

For me the resounding message across the conference was the importance of working together, providing good quality care through multidisciplinary, multi-speciality and multiagency input.

As health professionals we can be defensive about our roles, and rightly so! We all have valuable skills which we have worked hard to accumulate – professional identity is important.

However, in the care of older people especially, we work with complex patients and, not only do we need to work together, but learn from each other to be able to work better!

Three talks highlighted this to me:

Diabetes and Dementia by Jill Hill (Diabetes Nurse Specialist)

I’m no nurse and I’m no diabetes specialist but I do complete my own assessments of vulnerable and unwell people in the community. Jill emphasised the importance of holistic assessments, gathering the whole story.

What functional and cognitive abilities does someone need to manage their medication or insulin? How will it impact somebody psychologically, as well as physically, when they start to lose control of managing their diabetes? What impact will the physical effects of diabetes have on somebody’s dementia pathway?

Learning from each other is so important in a health service where, often, only one health professional will be completing an initial assessment.

Eating and drinking in older people with dementia – two presentations by Lindsey Collins (Speech Therapist) and Lee Hooper (Dietitian)

Now this is an area in which I have some knowledge! I’ve been reading on the subject in depth for over a year now, as you will see from my previous blogs. Despite this, I learnt new things in both talks.

Lindsey expanded on the Enriched Model of dementia care developed by Tom Kitwood in the ’90s and it was really interesting to apply this to eating and drinking. Lee shared a recent study called DRIE about dehydration in older adults, with some shocking statistics – in their study 62% of people admitted to hospital with dehydration were still dehydrated 48 hours later!

As a Dietitian, a Speech Therapist and an OT we all need to bring our individual perspectives to research, assessments and care plans. We also need to work with, and learn from our other health professional colleagues. Only then can we make a difference in quality of nutritional care for people with dementia.
This is such a small part of my experience of Primary Care and Public Health 2016. I would highly recommend this FREE conference and exhibition to clinicians working in all care settings. You couldn’t attend and not bring something new away to apply to practice.

I look forward to seeing you at Primary Care and Public Health 2017!