Friday, 3 April 2009

Brighton on the bike

The trip from Reading to the Brighton Conference of HaCIRIC (Health and Care Infrastructure Research and Information Centre) was uneventful and somewhat dull. I took the shortest route to the motorway, and then had the pleasure of riding in heavy traffic on the M3, M25 and M23. The morning traffic was heavy, but when it slowed to a crawl, I could filter between the more or less stationary vehicles, so I arrived in Brighton in time to check in to the hotel and catch the opening speeches of the conference. The conference finished mid-afternoon on Friday, and the weather was a bit misty in Brighton, but as I left the coast at Shoreham, the skies cleared and it was a beautiful bright afternoon.

The road was vary varied, because I had programmed the satnav for the most direct route, rather than the quickest, which was motorway. There was some really nice looking pubs and villages. The best part of the route was around Loxwood and along the A281 to Guildford. Really good road surface, nice sweeping bends and hardly any traffic at all. It was so pleasant to be putting the bike through its paces for the first time since the winter. Now that the roads have got some grip, the bike is rock solid in the corners, and I was reminded how good the handling was. What a great way to end a conference.

HaCIRIC Conference

The second annual conference of HaCIRIC (Health and Care Infrastructure Research and Innovation Centre) took place in Brighton these last two days. It was in the Brighton Metropole Hotel, on the seafront, although the location could have been anywhere, because, typically, none of the rooms we used had any windows, and the decor was standard 1980s stuff, which could have been anywhere in the world. But when we ate, we had great views of the sea. The presentations at the conference were very good indeed, ranging from strategic health planning through to the way that stroke patients were dealt with in UK compared with USA. It was really useful being able to connect the way that health services are planned with the funding, design and construction of the facilities themselves. As before, many of us found ourselves questioning why the health service needs capital assets, and struggling with the tensions between the needs for operational efficiency on the one hand, and the iconic value a hospital has for the community in which it is based. It seems that local politics demands that every community can identify itself with a hospital of some kind. National politics demands that vote-catching policies are more important than evidence-based health care. And no one wants to pay for health care, apparently. It certainly brought home to me the difficulty of developing a rational and effective health service. Within this complex and difficult context, the HaCIRIC researchers are trying to develop understanding,and provide tools and techniques that will help to resolve some of the inherent difficulties in the provision of the built environment for health care. The conference brought together people from all aspects of the health service, and provided some enlightening and informative moments for all of us.

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Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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