Time to embrace a new style of conference? #WILTW

This is the 112th #WILTW

It is currently July but for many hospitals it feels like January. We are seeing a wave of respiratory and febrile illness normally associated with the winter months and in our Children’s Emergency Department 10% more patients presented than the same time period last year.

The NHS won’t survive another bad winter‘ is a term that’s been frequently used in the press. However we are now in a situation where both presentation and admission rates indicate seasonal variation is disappearing and the health system is in a constant state of over capacity. This clearly affects staff and at the moment, undoubtedly influenced by other political issues, I sense a general fatigue in the acute and emergency care communities.

Healthcare professionals can be quite cynical about attempts to motivate them. Many initiatives considered no better than a collective ‘group hug’ which overlooks the underlying challenges.  Inspiration and motivation are very personal attributes. To re-energise some simply need a break, some need a change of environment, others need to work on different projects and some may actually just need a hug.

So what do we do to turn around an increasing malaise? If the current level of pressure is the new normal how will staff maintain the compassion and dedication that the #NHS, generally without exception, provides?

I left the conference wanting to go back to work” An unusual comment in the current climate but this is what Adrian Plunkett said when he was describing #SMACCDub. The Social Media and Critical Care conference is now in its fourth year (this year’s event was held in Dublin). Its founders have been passionate about delivering an event with a universally high standard of speaker and content ranging from the highly scientific to the incredibly emotive and sometimes a bit of both.  Adrian is a Paediatric Intensive Care Consultant who is behind the learning from excellence initiative. We were discussing the ‘positivity’ from an event this week organised by the RCPCH on patient safety and quality improvement. I’d been musing on how I think there has been a subtle shift in the tone of conferences I’ve attended recently.  The best example I think is SMACC (Ex- BMJ editor Richard Smith describing  it as one of the most energetic conferences he has been to) but others do exist (EMEC for example). This is not just about an increased use of social media but presenters perhaps being more honest with their audiences, topics inclusive of the challenge of work-life balance and more involvement of the public and patients in providing an important dose of realism.


It has always been the case the conferences and workshops allowed an exchange of ideas and knowledge. It might just be that they will need to have a more holistic energising role in the future. This is not just about positivism but about connecting with an audience and dealing with the challenges they face now rather than the past or future.

What have you learnt this week? #WILTW

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