Another Diabetes UK annual conference came to an end...the 11th one I have attended so far. My views on last year were mostly about how the old guard were still there...were they hanging on, keeping the surge of enthusiasm out or were they trying to guide the diabetes community through tricky territories?
For me, this year was more about taking stock, trying to consolidate all that had been done over the last few years...there was no need to stand up and declare to anyone else what "Portsmouth had done"...hate us or love us, we were there, firmly on the map. Some embraced warmly, some gave a grudging nod, some old friends were keen on comments with barbed wires, some feigned ignorance, some new friends openly admired the work done.
And finally there was perhaps proof, at least, in my own mind, that I was getting older. Sarcastic comments no longer warranted a spicy response, this time it was met with a smile and wishing them well in their own areas. To be honest, my commissioners are happy, our departmental position within the acute trust is secure, we have fabulous relations with our primary care colleagues...not to mention an ultra-fabulous team of nurses in the community and hospital....did it really matter what external people thought any more? No- it actually didn't. As Francoise Sagan said "To jealousy, nothing is more frightful than laughter"..so there wasn't much point any more ,not this year. The Portsmouth diabetes centre was now on the map- one of my tasks when I had taken over as Clinical Director, was done.
And then there was, what I thought, the high point of the conference...a session done by patients. Our local Ninja was there- and I also had the opportunity to listen and bump into so many (Hannah, Alex, Zoe etc) who I had interacted with on twitter. Great presentations- but more importantly, immensely brave, one had to ask why not a bigger forum? If there is anything that I would ask the organising committee to consider for the next conference, give the patients a bigger forum. HCPS need to learn , listen from what patients want. Only a few handful are on twitter, so what better forum than the annual professional conference? Do it guys...we can get things so much better. So many HCPs came up to me to ask how we were doing what we were doing...I have only one word.."listen".
And then there was the appointment of Jonathan Vallabhji as the new National Clinical Director of Diabetes...and for once I must say I agreed wholeheartedly with this. My views on lots of folks being in high positions- without a semblance of good care where they work - and mostly perhaps for their own kudos - is well known. But this was different..a breath of fresh air..if given the right tools and support, he can do some good. I shook his hand and he asked me- do I have you behind me? No, my friend, I am right beside you. If you want anything done to improve patient care, just ask.
A lot of time was spent discussing with folks I respect, about the future, my future...was it time to move on from a leadership role in diabetes? The team is set, the model is set, enough resources, reputation, type 1 diabetes service in development...time for a fresh approach after nearly 4 years? Time for a new challenge for me? And that's where the conference has always come into it's own for me..the ability to network- apart from socialising with the team I work with.
This year, the conference seemed to be just that bit different, just some early signs that perhaps this wouldn't be only about HCPs soul searching or brow beating..it would also be about listening to patients.
Its a start, guys...lets see where this takes us.