Conference report – SAPC 2014

For those who were unable to make it to Edinburgh for the 43rd annual conference of the Society of Academic Primary Care (9th – 11th July), here is my round-up of highs, lows, and (most importantly) the best and worst céilidh dancers at the conference dinner…

As ever with national conferences, SAPC 2014 offered a pretty packed schedule. Four keynotes covered a diverse range of topics: Prof Sir Andy Haines from LSHTM gave a barnstorming summary of the major challenges to achieving universal health coverage. It was particularly interesting to hear his reflections on the limitations of vertical single-disease programmes such as those for HIV and malaria, and the crucial role of primary care and primary care research in picking up and running with these major health challenges to improve population coverage. Prof Debbie Sharp from Bristol gave the Inaugural Helen Lester Memorial Lecture, a considered and thought-provoking summary of her long-term South London Child Development Study, and how and why mental health problems can persist through generations of the same families. Ruth McDonald, Prof of Governance and Public Management at Warwick, had us all giggling at the “power poses” adopted by certain movers and shakers (eagle eyes at the coffee break could see just where these were being employed) and looking at the advantages and disadvantages of ideas around leadership with a new interest. The final keynote was given by Prof Frede Olesen, who argued that the placebo effect in general practice – the power of the GP alone – is a neglected and under researched area.

A notable success this year was the “elevator pitch” sessions, replacing posters with three powerpoint slides in three minutes. Lots of interesting uses of this (and stretches of the format), but we have to congratulate our own Faraz Ahmed of CCHSR for his careful distillation of a complex dataset and analysis to the key message that patient experience is better for Bangladeshi and Pakistani patients when their GP practice offers a concordant language. Stand-out parallel presentations for me included thoughtful reflections from Kath Checkland from Manchester on the role of GPs in Clinical Commissioning Groups, questioning the sustainability of current arrangements, and research on practice receptionists and their role in dealing with acute stroke by Elizabeth Bates from the University of Birmingham (full study protocol here). The impact of receptionists on patient experience and care is often neglected and it was great to see a specific focus on this important area. In the prize-winning plenary session, Megan Elliott-Rudder from Australia gave a dynamic and inspiring presentation on a simple primary care nurse intervention to improve breastfeeding rates; and Helen Atherton from Oxford demonstrated just why she was such a deserving winner of this year’s Yvonne Carter award, with a brilliant summary of the current state of knowledge of the use of email for GP consultations.

I was delighted that yet again this year there was opportunity to have hysterics at everyone’s dancing – sadly not Bollywood style as in 2013, although I have to say that the céilidh gave many more opportunities for dangerous pile-ups as no-one could actually hear the directions being offered. My special thanks must go to Prof John Campbell from Exeter for his apparently encyclopaedic knowledge of Scottish country dancing and tolerance for his feet being trodden on. Roll on Oxford 2015.


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