Gertrude blows away the cobwebs: a report from the BGS Northern Ireland meeting

8420255250_a7c655a611_oCiarán Trolan is a Locum Consultant Geriatrician at Ulster Hospital in Dundonald; he tweets at @ciarantrolan.

Storm Gertrude blew over the country on the morning of this joint meeting of the NIBGS and RCPsych Faculty of Old Age. Trees and power lines may have been down, but spirits were up: the renewal of a new year and the drawing out of the dark winter nights permeated the meeting room. There were lively minds, and plenty of enthusiasm to tackle the issues that matter to the sister specialties of geriatric medicine and psychiatry of old age. The bars of the Crumlin Road Gaol venue could not imprison the gathering’s cordiality.

A Corkonian, Dr Timmons, made the long journey north to present the findings of the Audit of Dementia Care in Northern Ireland Hospitals. It is clear that policy and praxis do not always translate from the swish of a pen to the frontline: there was plenty of food for thought and nettles to be grasped. There was a sense in the air that a regional entente cordiale persists between the two specialties when it comes to the war on delirium and dementia.  Pockets of good practice and policy need to be propagated more widely: the cogs of regional government are turning slowly to help us achieve these improvements for our patients.

The marriage of body and mind was made manifest in Dr Potter: a psychiatry trainee who has passed through the hands of both specialties in her foundation programme. Her insights into the errant prescribing principles of junior doctors in the acute setting for those with difficult to manage behaviours identified a knowledge gap for us all to tackle.

Dr Potter was followed by Harry Potter, via the Dementors made famous in J K Rowling’s books: themselves a metaphor for the author’s own depressive disorder.  Further Hollywood stardust was sprinkled on proceedings when Dr Patterson and Dr Lewis highlighted the fallacy of dichotomisation in mental and physical health with references to James Taylor and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The marriage vows of body and mind were renewed: breaking stigmas of mental health problems is part of the patient and relative education in which we should all engage.

The day was bookended by Dr Ryan’s enlightening elucidation on mysticism of hyponatraemia. The attendees were torn between pouring more of the water on the tables, or glancing over to the refreshments table in the search of a salty snack. By the end of her presentation I think the whole room was more resolute on whether they were deplete or dilute. She provided interesting insights into the very real effect of hyponatraemia on gait pattern and fracture risk.

After warm conversation (some serious, some rugby and baby related) the lively minds and hard-working bodies departed into traffic chaos thanks to Gertrude’s last few gusty breaths tumbling over a lorry on the Belfast lough foreshore. The cobwebs were blown. The future: spring-like.

Image credit: Daniel Dudek-Corrigan

 

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