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2007, December 5th, 6pm-9.20pm, London South Bank University, Events Theatre

SKELLERN LECTURE, Cath Gamble - The Rise & Fall of the Nursing Phoenix

Introduced by Julie Repper

Biography: One of Catherine's roles as an acute inpatient ward manager was to manage the move from an old style "Victorian" ward to a new building named after Eileen Skellern at the Maudsley Hospital in London.  From there, in 1991 Catherine took lead responsibility for developing and implementing the inaugural Thorn programme, in psychosocial interventions at the Institute of Psychiatry and has subsequently used this experience to set up numerous programmes in a variety of educational and clinical settings.  Her knowledge of, and clinical expertise in schizophrenia family work in particular, has resulted in her being asked to disseminate the approach to mental health professionals both in this country and abroad.  These experiences have given her many insights into the complexities of implementing evidence based interventions in routine clinical practice.  Catherine is currently working as a Consultant Nurse for South West London and St Georges Mental Health Trust.

Lecture Synopsis: The opening of the Eileen Skellern block heralded a new era for acute inpatient care. Patients for the first time had single accommodation, individual consultation and group activity rooms. This was a great clinical opportunity which was wholeheartedly grasped by the team.  In this new environment, evidence-based practices could be more readily incorporated into the team's philosophy these included: Family work (Kupiers, Leff and Lam, 2002), Flexible shift working, Yalom (1983) based community group, Zoning methodology to organise ward activities (Gamble, 2006), Relationship building with service users using Peplau's (1988) Interpersonal relations.  After a year, the team's care principles were struggling to survive, the internal market was in place, community care was the way forward and inpatient care was the last resort.  Service user's needs rose to that only previously experienced on intensive care units.  Ward staff were unprepared, morale dropped and experienced team members moved on.  Good nursing practice tends to rise when enthusiastic leaders start and fall when they and other team members leave.  Such occurrences are especially pertinent when internal management and external agendas change. Foundation hospital status is just around the corner, in these changing times, can evidence based care ideals be maintained or should we wait for another phoenix to rise from the ashes?  This lecture aims to review principles learnt from family work implementation (Gamble, 2007) and the Thorn initiative (Gamble, 1997) and identify ways to sustain quality care beyond change agendas.


Introduced - by Gary Winship. 

“Jo has always been a serious comedienne.  Her concerns have oscillated between the personal and the political as she has self consciously figured out the journey through the tangled narrative of emotional and social well-being in the strain of modern life.  She appeals to us in this age of anxiety, that we need to learn to sit comfortably in our own skin, and that the biology of being, our secretions, our fluids, our partners, our offspring and so on, for better or for worse; are ours to be claimed.  Jo is a lesson in articulation, and she has shown us - and continues to show us - that it is finding the words and the voice to talk about the difficult things in life, including the taboos that wear us down, that we can discover our true self.  Jo is well known of course for her television and media work.  There are far too many to list here, but the highlights span 'BBC Question Time' to Trinny & Susannah's 'What Not to Wear, to BBCs Fame Academy'. 

In particular her many appearances on shows alongside Stephen Fry and Paul Merton have always had a certain poignancy given that both of these men have been very public about their own mental health problems.  So Jo has been very much part of a new firmament of raised consciousness about mental well being that filtered through the public sphere in the dawn of the twentieth first century.  Jo has used her popularity to good effect; raising money for charities, her recent run to raise money for Alzheimer's being one example, and I know she is a patron of the Women's Therapy Centre in Derby and there are other quieter contributions she has made.    But, for many of us Jo is better known as a nursing colleague.  She graduated from Brunel University on one of the first UK degree programmes that combined a BA with a mental health qualification.  The course tutor was Barbara Rudgely.  Jo was one of a number of fellow graduate who have gone on to make their mark including  David Sines, Edana Minghella, Helen Griffin, Ben Thomas and Peter Griffiths to name a few.  Jo worked at the Maudsley from the late 1970s and I had the good fortune to work with her there over a period of two years or so (1985-1987) on the Intensive Care Unit, or the Villa as it was known. Jo was the Senior Charge Nurse on the Emergency Clinic and would often come over and help out on the ICU.  We would always be relieved when it was Jo who came over to help, not just me but much more experienced colleagues like Blossom, Deborah Watkins, Cyril, Andy Gibb, Steve Redknap.  We knew Jo to be one of the safest pairs of hands around.  It wasn't necessarily what you did that mattered, rather it was how you were that made a difference with acutely disturbed individuals.  Jo's impact on the milieu was that her presence and demeanour could quietly impose calm.  She demonstrated an art of being, and this talent has been at the substrate of her career ever since.  I should say that I don't recall Jo being particularly funny, not even at social events.  That's not say she wasn't good in company, though I think now perhaps she may have been struggling with her demons more than I understood at the time.  We gleaned something more of Jo's history when recently she talked candidly on Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4, 18 March 2007) about some of her own personal conflicts in the process of becoming a mental health nurse.         


In this media savvy day and age, Jo's contribution to a sort of popular mental health pedagogy is important.  Medicine has Dr Hilary Jones, psychiatry Raj Persaud, psychology Oliver James, but when it comes to a public profile for MHN the profession seems to pride itself on its invisibility.  MHN is emaciated with its surplus of absence in visible public sphere, and so the wealth of Jo's talent does not always sit comfortably with some people.  I have heard colleagues voice hesitations in claiming Jo as one of our own and yet Jo continually locates her history as a MHN.  Like many of us she has moved back from the frontline (as academics or managers do elsewhere), but her experiences from the clinical frontline have been indelible when it comes to who she is and what she stands up for.  I hope the accolade of this award puts the waiverers concerns finally to rest, and with the knowledge that the majority of Jo's peers heartedly embrace her contribution, and maybe younger colleagues can be inspired by her achievements.  If Nurse Ratched was an icon of MHN for the 20th Century, then at least now we claim Jo a new icon for the 21st .  Alongside the previous recipient of this award, the inimitable Professor Phil Barker, Jo has offered a significant contribution, albeit less academically, but it is one that we celebrate as enhancing the standing of the profession and raising the profile of the challenges of mental health well being.  I am certain that Jo will be a formidable and worthy new affiliate for the Blackwell's JPMHN lifetime achievement award”.  (GW 2007) 


Pictured: Julie Repper, David Sines, Cath Gamble & Hilary Mcallion

Pictured left: Professor David Sines, Paul Forte (Eileen Skellern's nephew), Cath Gamble, Jo Brand (Lifetime Achievement Award), Dr Joy Bray, Professor Dawn Freshwater, Dr Julie Repper, Dr Gary Winship

Short Lists 2007

Skellern: Catherine Gamble, Hilary Mcallion,

Liftetime: Jo Brand, Tony Lieba. 

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