The past three years have been quite challenging both personally and professionally.
Professionally as an IT secondment came to an end in 2007 and brought with it positive and negative changes. The positive of moving back to clinical practice, the negative the vagaries of clinical banding and the Knowledge and Skills Framework which many health sector organisations are still attempting to fully implement. On a personal level, I am now also divorced. Working on the community for so many years - just over the border of my clinical patch - was a gift of convenience in terms of the children's schooling and playing taxi driver.
While there was a very objective interview panel I feel I owe having my current job to my friend David McKendrick. This fact now scares me witless that this was back in 1985 when my eldest son was born. I was so wrapped up in this life-changing event that the secretary phoned to ask if I did want the job. The organisation I still work for has changed its title and status umpteenth times it seems and I have had several roles over the years, including research and service development projects. The truth is though that when it comes to work, this journey began at Chorley with David and that is essentially where I am still at.
I was really shocked then when Sue, David's wife phoned with the news that David had died earlier this month. I'd kept in touch with David through the years. Due to my new domestic circumstances I moved back to Ashton-in-Makerfield - living not far from David and Sue - in July last year. David was so helpful, patient and supportive as I have progressed through the divorce.
We both worked at Winwick Hospital, Warrington, UK and I am pleased I went along this summer to a reunion and saw David in his element with friends, Sue and a pint. I also managed to take quite a few photos which will now be extra memorable for so many of us. Although I didn't work with David at Winwick, as already suggested he was my boss on the community mental health team at Chorley, Lancashire from October 1985 through to his early retirement due to illness.
We shared a love of IT and coding as enthusiasts. In the early 80s David called to my parents home when I'd bought a BBC micro, an upgrade from a Sinclair ZX81. David contributed so much to health IT, through his work with Open Software Library, computer aided learning and his pioneering bulletin board. David was also a co-organiser of a computer based training conference at Keele University 1987-88. Open Software Library distributed several computer programs I wrote on the BBC micro. One thing that makes me smile is the way in the late 80s early 90s I got my underpants into a bit of a twist over the copyright. Now reflecting back, David was a real Gent in how he handled that, my concerns to which he listened, accepted and explained. There was a lesson there also in terms of Hodges' model and Brian Hodges' worries over the same. Where might the model be now, we often pondered, if it had been driven hard from the outset!
When David retired it wasn't the same. Of course you know the job changes constantly, but there was a real loss of impetus: from warp to impulse drive. David was much liked and respected as a boss and colleague. If you were professional in your approach put the clients, carers and families first then he left you to get on with the job. That said his recognition for accountability and governance was communicated and shared by the team. He used an Amstrad micro to produce statistics on the number of home visits, injections and many other details. David was ahead of the informatics game in recognising the value of information for service planning, development and improvement. When David was off a while I kept this effort going for a short while until duties dragged me elsewhere. David's early IT work was published in the Community Psychiatric Nursing Association journal, an association (now the MHNA) which he helped established initially.
I can see us all walking from the team office at Eaves Lane hospital (long gone now), up through the tunnel to the main hospital for the regular team meeting. That was a golden age of sorts, when all the community nurses came together. David was always keen on that. You were a member of a team and everyone was valued and had a role to play.
David recognised my interest (and yes skill -- thanks David!) in computing and sent me on a health care computing conference held in Manchester 1986. I wrote a report and have attended and presented at the HC-XXXX series on several occasions since. We often shared books, papers and plans around technology developments and when to build or buy that next PC.
I really, really can't believe David has gone. He was (very) widely read and we loved knocking ideas around always wondering about what sort of clinical / nursing application might have a future. I only learned since his passing of his excellence as a student nurse. When he qualified as a Registered Mental Nurse (RMN) he was awarded the Gold Medal. He was always keen to read my writing efforts and discuss the same. I remain really impressed with his website on Winwick Hospital - Winwick Remembered. While there is much in the old institutions to say good riddance to and never again this IS social history and as BBC R4's In the Mind featured there is much to record and document. In 2006 David got in touch with a query regarding relatives of patients from Winwick trying to trace details of their family members. I posted his inquiry on the psychiatric nursing list.
Over the past year or so, we met a few times at Tom & Gerry's the local pub with David riding there on his bike: magic!! Sitting at that usual table (near the plug) sad, but lots of smiles too.
I arrived late to politics and I much admire his involvement in community work, the Three Sisters Recreation area project in Ashton. While I enthused over 'community informatics' David was practicing it, engaging with others. I'm sure I don't appreciate the extent of his efforts, the youth club - helping make IT available to youngsters, environmental projects, and the community forum.
I am truly thankful for having met David, for his friendship, support and guidance over the past 18 months and the years before. If I've three regrets:
- I never did take my guitar around; as I realise now how good David was - McKendrick's Moonshiners no less - I clearly missed a lick there!
- Also never did find and show David the old photos from Winwick hospital - the show we put on as students.
- Being able to explore Ashton Heath, the types of heather and the bees there.
David - I'll miss you pal and miss you already!
As the new decade begins bless you, Sue and your family and friends...
From: Richard Lakeman, richard.lakeman at dcu.ie
To: Peter Jones h2cmng at yahoo.co.uk
Sent: Mon, 14 December, 2009 14:40:27
RE: [PSYCHIATRIC-NURSING] David McKendrick - CPN - CPN Manager, Winwick & Chorley, UK
I’m sorry to hear about David, Peter. Thanks for letting us know. I never met David, but he marketed some software I wrote for some years and He was a pleasure to deal with.