I work as a highly-specialised physiotherapist in the community learning disability team at Bradford District Care Foundation Trust, and was delighted to be awarded a bursary enabling me to attend the PMG Conference 2016 in Birmingham.
The conference was very well located and easy to find in central Birmingham and, with such helpful and friendly staff at the venue, it was a great start!
The opening plenary presentation by Ade Adepitan, TV presenter and patron of Go Kids Go, was a real highlight. Ade spoke with passion about the issues faced by young wheelchair users in the past, and how things have moved on since. He was also thought-provoking on some of the challenges that we as a society need to tackle now.
Later the same morning there was another interesting talk, given by Sam Esson of Kings College Hospital London, on the use of 3D printing and its application to posture and mobility work. This was a subject that I found intriguing despite my prior misconceptions about the subject! 3D printing looks set to change the way we work, as well as reduce the cost of posture and mobility equipment in the future, and Sam’s talk really served to whet my appetite for learning more about the wider application of 3D printing in a therapeutic setting.
It was difficult to choose between the parallel sessions on offer; however, the session on joint funded seating provided real food for thought. In our increasingly challenging financial climate, there is always the demand to cut costs. However, the solutions offered by joint working - in this instance between Tower Hamlets Wheelchair Services and Barts NHS Health Trust in London - appeared to not only deliver cost savings, but also an improvement in patient experience. The solutions involved collaborative working, which is something other trusts and organisations are now embracing. Surely we should all be taking notice?
The debate between Martin Gough, a consultant paediatric orthopaedic surgeon, and physiotherapist Wendy Murphy, in their session entitled Making life better: postural management and surgery for the child and adult with complex disability, was another highlight. Their debate reflected thoughts and dilemmas that have troubled me throughout my career when deciding how much is too much? How much can we, should we, expect families and people with profound disabilities to take on in the name of therapy? What promises are we making them, and are we sure that the gain will be worth the very real emotional, physical and financial costs to the patient and their carers? Being honest with ourselves as professionals must be the first step.
The second day brought further interesting talks; of particular note for me was Dr Nathan Babiker’s presentation Working with the psychological consequences of trauma. The discussion around medicalising a natural grieving process, as opposed to dealing with the full effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, was a subject way outside my area of expertise, but I felt I learnt a great deal that may enable me to make onward referrals more effectively. Photo: Dr Nathan Babiker presenting his paper to PMG conference delegates at the ICC Birmingham, July 2016. Photograph courtesy of Suzie Hunt.
In and amongst these interesting and thought-provoking sessions was the opportunity to visit the exhibition. This was filled with a range of equipment and knowledgeable company representatives who were able to demonstrate their wares over the course of the two days. The whole event was rounded off nicely by a visit to the bookstall, where I used the voucher provided in our conference pack to put towards a new publication for my department (after first enjoying a read of it on the train home!).
If you are ever provided the opportunity to attend a PMG conference, you’ll be busy for the full two days, you will leave buzzing with ideas, and you definitely won’t be sorry you went!