Tag: doctoral examination

Fees, theses and project updates

Last week brought the news that, in England, people beginning nursing degrees from the 2017-18 academic year will need to take out student loans to cover the cost of their tuition fees. The cap on student numbers will also be removed. The Council of Deans of Health broadly supports this move, having previously argued for change. One of the things it points out is that current funding for students (via the agreement of the benchmark price) does not cover the real costs of educating new nurses. The Royal College of Nursing, on the other hand, is concerned that last week’s announcement prepares to break the connection between the NHS and financial support for student nurses, and simultaneously risks making nursing a less attractive career option. This concern particularly relates to mature students and those contemplating a second degree, for some of whom the prospect of additional debt may be exceptionally unappealing. As a nurse academic in Wales I wait with interest to see what policy on fees will emerge from the Welsh Government.

In other news, I find myself engaged in a prolonged period of doctoral student activity. I’ve examined a number of theses in and out of Cardiff in recent months, and have sat with students during their vivas as either supervisor or independent chair. This term has been particularly packed. Plenty of writing has also been taking place: papers and reports are being written from COCAPP, RiSC and Plan4Recovery, and from completed theses I have helped to supervise. Data generation in COCAPP-A has almost concluded, and new research ideas are taking shape. Exciting times, if a little frenetic. 

Divergence and difference in mental health policy

Yesterday’s main business was a there-and-back trip to the University of Nottingham to act as a PhD external examiner. Reading this (very interesting) thesis in advance, discussing with the candidate at viva and talking with supervisory and examiner colleagues over lunch has reminded me (again) how mental health policy and services in Wales and England are diverging.

As an example, there really is no equivalent to the Mental Health (Wales) Measure on the English side of the Severn Bridge. For those not in the know here, ‘measure’ in this context means ‘law’. The Welsh Government’s brief public summary of this piece of legislation says:

The Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 is a new law made by the Welsh Government which will help people with mental health problems in four different ways.
Local Primary Mental Health Support Services
The Measure will make sure that more services are available for your GP to refer you to if you have mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. These services, which may include for example counselling, stress and anxiety management, will either be at your GP practice or nearby so it will be easier to get to them.
You will also be told about other services which might help you, such as those provided by groups such as local voluntary groups or advice about money or housing.
Care Coordination and Care and Treatment Planning
Some people have mental health problems which require more specialised care and support, (sometimes provided in hospital). If you are receiving these services then your care and treatment will be overseen by a professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse or social worker. These people will be called Care Coordinators and will write you a care and treatment plan – working with you as much as possible. This plan will set out the goals you are working towards and the services that will be provided by the NHS and the local authority and other agencies to help you reach them. This plan must be reviewed with you at least once a year.
Assessment of people who have used specialist mental health services before
If you have received specialised treatment in the past and were discharged because your condition improved, but now you feel that your mental health is becoming worse, then you can go straight back to the mental health service which was looking after you before and ask them to check whether you need any further help or treatment. You don’t need to go to your GP first, although you may wish to talk it through. You can ask for this up to three years after you are discharged from the specialist team.
Independent Mental Health Advocacy
If you are in hospital and you have mental health problems you can ask for help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA). An IMHA is an expert in mental health who will help you to make your views known and take decisions in relation to your care and treatment (but will not take decisions on your behalf!)

COCAPP, as some readers of this blog will already know, is investigating care planning and care coordination in community mental health: so the Care Coordination and Care and Treatment Planning component of the Measure is a really important part of the study’s context. It will be interesting to see how far national-level legal and policy differences are ‘felt’ at the level of everyday practice.

There are other important differences in emphasis across the two countries, too. I hear anecdotally that to save money some of the work done by England’s assertive outreach and early intervention teams is being called back into comprehensive, locality-based, community mental health teams (CMHTs). Assertive outreach and early intervention teams, alongside crisis resolution and home treatment services, sprung up in England in the first decade of this century following the publication of the National Service Framework for Mental Health, the Policy Implementation Guide and the NHS Plan. Here the strategy document Adult Mental Health Services for Wales, which appeared in 2001, was strong in its commitment to CMHTs and as a result (I have always thought) we never had quite the range of differentiated services which England had. We have, of course, got crisis services in Wales, as I have previously written about here, here and here.

And it’s not only in the mental health field that policy and services are diverging. We have no clinical commissioning groups in Wales, for the obvious reason that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 applies to England only (for more on this, check out this post dating back to the time I heard Raymond Tallis speak at the Hay Festival).

Reflections on a pre-conference week

Funding for Welsh students and Welsh universities is in tonight’s news, I see, and I’m beginning to wonder how long the Welsh Government’s current policy in this area will survive. More immediately, it’s been a varied enough week for me personally: and that’s without my two days at the NPNR conference in Warwick which begin with a frighteningly early start tomorrow morning. But at least I’ll have Gerwyn Jones and Mohammad Marie in the car for company, so all will be well.

Highlights so far include a meeting of (most of) the excellent RiSC team (which includes the newly-professored Steven Pryjmachuk), to make further progress on our evidence review of ‘risk’ for young people moving into, through and out of inpatient mental health services. This is a two-phase project, and we’re now in the second segment. This is involving searches for research and other materials across a number of databases, and putting out calls for evidence to local services and other organisations.

Data has continued to be generated in COCAPP, and this week a date has been set for a first planning meeting for an exciting new project I am involved in led by Michael Coffey. More to follow on this in the fullness of time, I expect. And yesterday took me to a second meeting of the Mental Health Research Network Cymru Service User and Carer Partnership Research Development Group, an event convened at Hafal‘s premises located in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans: National History Museum. A good place, St Fagans: well worth a visit.

Elsewhere there have been comments to make on students’ draft assignments, research ethics committee work, undergraduate teaching to prepare (on roles in health and social care teams) and writing plans to be laid. I’ve also been reading a PhD ahead of a viva scheduled in the next few weeks. So this short post will do for tonight: time to knock off, iron some shirts, pack a bag and have an early night.

Vivas, research projects and the Welsh Government on the Francis Report

There’s plenty going on in the continuing baking sun this week. I was pleased to spend yesterday at Sheffield University (where I was once a student) examining, and recommending awarding, a doctorate addressing the use of problem based learning in mental health nursing education.

Meanwhile COCAPP is now generating data, and the RiSC project has reached a critical point as a search strategy is devised for its second phase. And tomorrow and on Friday I’ll be in the classroom with a group of professional doctorate students, talking and learning about systems and complexity.

Elsewhere, via the twitter account of the Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford I’ve spotted the Welsh Government’s response to the Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. I see there will be an annual Quality Statement for the NHS in Wales from next year, and a future NHS Wales Quality Bill.

Summer sun

Just as predicted by those nice people at the Met Office, South Wales is warming up. The sun is high, and I hear the voices of schoolchildren playing football. I’ve been stuck inside all day, which in the circumstances has been something of a drag, but in the last hour or so I’ve gravitated outside to soak up some of this long-awaited summer.

This has been a working week as varied as any. I had a couple of School committees to chair (research ethics, and scientific review), some teaching (MSc), and a meeting with colleagues to plan some pre-registration interprofessional education in the autumn. This is a continuing mental health nursing/occupational therapy initiative (which I’ve posted about before), and on this occasion we’re planning some technological innovation involving the use of video recording and playback. On the research front I’ve been working on RiSC and keeping in touch with COCAPP, and found myself contributing to a rapidly convened meet-up to talk through a brand new project idea. I received page proofs for our new Critical junctures paper, peer reviewed a manuscript submitted for publication, and received a citation alert from Scopus. This was particularly pleasing as it took my ‘h’ index to 15, for what that’s worth. I also completed preparations for a doctoral examination taking place next Tuesday, and managed to squeeze in a pleasant catch-up with an esteemed colleague working in NHS mental health services. Mostly we exchanged news of developments in practice, services and research locally.

And with that, I’m off. Beer in the back garden calls.

Theses, vivas and research students

I’ll be examining another doctoral thesis soon, which today I’ve started reading. I won’t say anything about it specifically, but the occasion does give me a starting point for this post.

My own PhD thesis ran to about 450 pages, references and appendices included. It was years in the making, not least as I was a part-time student with plenty of other things to keep me busy. My supervisors, who I’ve mentioned on this blog before, were Davina Allen and Philip Burnard. As an internal candidate it was necessary for me to have two external examiners, and these were Ian Norman from King’s College London and Lesley Griffiths from Swansea University. Here’s the summary from my study:

My viva went well, proceeding in a spirit of collegial inquiry. This is how it ideally should be, and even where a thesis is judged to have major weaknesses I firmly believe that the examination should be conducted fairly and with courtesy. Cardiff University vivas are independently chaired, which I think helps the process, though I know this is not standard practice everywhere.

As it happens the Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies has significantly grown its postgraduate research in recent years, and we now have a healthy number of UK and international PhD and Professional Doctorate students. Together they run a lively multi-author blog under the title PhDays. Check it out.

Snow, research and higher degrees

Red weather warningToday brought the predicted dollop of snow, meaning that yesterday there was no bread to be had in the shops. See this Met Office map of the UK, with its colour-coded weather warnings? See the red blob? That’s where I live, and where I am now.

This has been an interesting, and particularly research-oriented, working week. I spent part of Monday with a group of postgraduates, discussing processes for the review and approval of research and other projects. It has to be said that the opportunities for MSc students to complete small-scale data-generating studies are fewer than they once were, particularly if their plans are to generate data in the NHS. The time needed to secure R&D and research ethics approval can take a serious chunk out of the typical student’s period of candidature. Now, unless studies can be shown to be linked to larger research endeavours there’s also a fair chance that some NHS organisations will want to levy charges for processing R&D applications and for consuming their resources. As I ended up telling this particular MSc group, for NHS governance purposes there are also fine distinctions sometimes to be made between ‘research’ and other activities (like ‘service evaluation’ and ‘audit’) which, on the face of it, can look pretty ‘research-y’.

Monday also brought a meeting with second year, undergraduate, pre-registration mental health nursing students. That was nice, and we got to talk about all manner of things: the history of mental health nursing, developments in local services, experiences of practice.

Tuesday brought a project advisory group meeting chaired by Professor Billie Hunter. Billie’s study is funded by the Royal College of Midwives, and is examining midwives’ resilience. It’s interesting both methodologically and substantively, and one of the things I’m learning about is the generation of research data using social media.

Wednesday was an unusual day, involving a trip to another university to examine a doctoral thesis. People often have lots to say about preparing for vivas from the student point of view, and in every university there will be stories to be heard about students’ (good and bad) doctoral examination experiences. Less is said about the experiences of examiners. In my view the invitation to examine a doctorate is an honour, and the occasion demands careful preparation. After all, we’re talking here about the culmination of years of work, folks. On this week’s and on the few other occasions in which I have examined I have, I hope, combined rigorous enquiry with respectful courtesy. This is certainly how my examiners were on the day of my viva, I’m pleased to say.

Thursday (yesterday) began with a meeting to review a contract, connected to a funded research project I’m involved in which formally commences at the start of next month. I learnt some new stuff along the way, including the distinctions between ‘background’ and ‘foreground’ intellectual property and copyright. Michael Coffey, Aled Jones, Jennifer Egbunike and I met to make practical plans for a segment of another project, led by Alan Simpson. This study is also involving Alison Faulkner (whose website, if she has one, I do not know), Jitka Jancova and (soon) Sally Barlow. All very productive and interesting, and I was pleased to round off the day in the office with an expected conversation with the clinical psychologist, Andrew Vidgen, about his work in early intervention in psychosis, my Connections and consequences paper, and a few other things besides.

January 18th 2013And today the snow came (check out this photo, revealing the red blob’s local snowfall), and as anticipated a large thesis chunk to read and review from my esteemed colleague, Pauline Tang, who is also a research student. Pauline is interested in the use of electronic patient records, and I am again reminded of the discipline and hard work required by part-time doctoral students who have to combine their studies with the day job. The equally esteemed Jane Davies, my longstanding friend and colleague and now a full time (pretty much) PhD student, also sent me some interesting initial reflections relating to her planned study of decision-making in adolescent cancer.

Running looks out of the question this weekend, and, for all I know, the coming week. Today’s deep snow will be tomorrow’s ice, and that stuff’s not to be run on. Long walks look a tantalising possibility, though.