Winter Pressures

Merry Christmas to all Thorax readers, and everyone else as well.

Having been mentioned in dispatches by Ian and Andy, it only seems fitting that I actually write something on this blog. I could write down here a litany of excuses for not having written missive #2, but as the majority of potential readers here are respiratory physicians, nurses, physiotherapists and pulmonary function techs, you will all know how over the Winter months deadlines do tend to slide, and our attention is caught by many other pressing matters.

When I was a trainee (and all this was fields as far as the eye could see), we had something called “Winter Pressure”. This was the general term applied to the massive increase in admissions through the medical take, notably pushing the respiratory service particularly hard during the “Winter Months”. I know enough about medicine now to know that my Granny wasn’t quite right when she told me “You’ll catch pneumonia by being ‘out in the cold'” (although I do still avoid sitting on radiators, and cold stone floors…), but there’s no doubt the chest ward swells in the winter.

These days the Winter seems to go on for most of the year. I accept that up here in “The Frozen North” it’s winter for longer than down in Professor Pavord’s tropical paradise, but our “Winter Pressure” seems to extend well into June, and starts in October. This year we have been given a few more beds, but with no nurses to staff these beds we wait for the influx of our COPD patients, and the seasonal increase in pneumonia numbers with baited breath.

But Winter brings with it the Winter BTS, and the opportunity to fly down to London for a bit of extra christmas shopping. Alas this year colleagues all had more worthy reasons to go to the BTS than I: One was presenting his research; one was presenting his MD; and one had foregone the delights of Barcelona and the ERS, so had ‘first dibs’ on the BTS; leaving me to stay at home at man the fort. But the twitter sphere kept me in the loop. I proposed #BTS2013 over on our Facebook page, but a matter of hours later BTS CEO Sheila Edwards launched #BTS13 as the ‘official’ hashtag of the conference – we really should co-ordinate efforts next year. This gave me two has tags to follow, but twice the opportunity to cross-fertilise.

I think #BTS13, just sneaks the win...
I think #BTS13, just sneaks the win…

Over 500 Tweets on the first day shows how in tune with Social Media the delegates were this year. In total, 1,304 tweets to #BTS13, and 296 to #BTS2013 showed a massive interest from everyone out there. I don’t have comparable data for 2012, but it’s clearly a growth area. I received a constant stream of updates from delegates on a wide range of topics, not just @copddoc‘s area of interest. A highlight was the Storify-ification of the palliative care session – worth a look.

One Winter pressure I don’t mind too much is the pressure to scoff all the Chocolates left on the wards. Over on sister-site Doc2Doc the discussion turned to which chocolates last the longest in a medical ward, following this article in the festive BMJ. I was on call Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day: I favour the Chocolate Orange, but the Twisted Creme Egg miniature Hero will do for me.

A couple of interesting snippets for your consideration:

This is a lovely review of the nomenclature of airways disease, which on the face of it doesn’t sound *too* exciting, but asks a very important question: Where is the evidence base for all the asthma/COPD crossover patients who get excluded from clinical trials? As Nigel Tufnell would say… “Nowhere”.

In a bit of shameless promotion for a colleague here in Dundee – here’s a soon-to-be published article on a proposed bronchiectasis severity index, and the online tool to calculate the BSI score on your own patients.

In my spare time, I’m one of the run directors for our local parkrun here in Dundee. We’ve been running for 18 months, and have over 100 folk regularly pitching up on a Saturday. On Xmas day this year, whilst I was at work, we had 93 hardy souls completing 5k, for fun. The parkrun initiative has taken off to such a huge degree that there are parkruns everywhere throughout the UK. I’m a bit of a parkrun evangelist now, but the difference it’s made to the cardiovascular health of people throughout the UK, and beyond, is worth a mention here. It’s entirely run by volunteers, yet more and more runs start every week. If you’re looking for something to do on a Saturday morning…

New Year brings with it resolutions, so I resolve to keep this blog up to date. Check back for more musings on respiratory medicine, life in the chest unit, the twitter-sphere and more. Other resolutions include more exercise, fewer chocolate oranges, and finally getting round to submitting that case report to Thorax…

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