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NHS Highland And The Broons' Legendary Characters Embark On A Braw Initiative To Tackle Deconditioning #nhsbroons

8th February 2024

Photograph of NHS Highland And The Broons' Legendary Characters Embark On A Braw Initiative To Tackle Deconditioning #nhsbroons

NHS Highland and the team behind The Broons have joined forces to launch an educational 'deconditioning' comic strip for Scotland's ageing population.

The information has been presented in a captivating format, featuring The Broons' legendary characters, that is likely to be identifiable to all ages, but particularly older people and their families. The purpose of this resource is to prevent, recognise, and reduce deconditioning by providing engaging and accessible health and wellbeing information. The cultural reference serves to boost the morale of patients and facilitate more effective communication for senior citizens.

Deconditioning is a term that refers to the physical and functional decline experienced by older adults who are hospitalised. This decline is primarily caused by a lack of physical activity and exercise. Research indicates that older adults admitted to the hospital spend a significant amount of time - up to 95% - either in their beds or chairs, which can lead to deconditioning. It can have serious implications for the long-term health and wellbeing of older adults, resulting in prolonged hospital stays, increased risk of falls and decreased ability to perform independent daily living tasks long after they are discharged from the hospital.

Lack of physical activity during hospital stays has negative consequences for all patients, especially older people. Inactivity in the hospital poses a number of risks including an increased risk of blood clots, pressure ulcers, muscle atrophy and a decline in physical function. The negative consequences of this inactivity can also lead to longer hospital stays, increased healthcare costs and a decrease in the quality of life for patients.

The effects of deconditioning can be noticed within a short time, as nearly two-thirds of older adults admitted to the hospital will experience a decline in their ability to walk independently, and this can start within just two days. Additionally, the impacts of deconditioning can be long-lasting, as muscle weakness can persist for three to five years after a patient has been discharged from the hospital.

Derek Laidler, Professional Lead Physiotherapist, Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) said: "The #EndPJParalysis Global Campaign has highlighted awareness of the adverse effects of deconditioning. This movement continues to be successful in educating healthcare practitioners worldwide about the risks of deconditioning. Their efforts have contributed significantly to the reduction of deconditioning cases and the promotion of patients' overall wellbeing. The movement's success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of those involved in raising awareness of deconditioning and loss of functional abilities in frail older people as serious issues.

"Admission to hospital for many older people can be seen as a low-risk option and it's important for older people, their families and carers as well as health and social care staff to be aware of the very real risks involved when deciding the best options to manage an injury or illness. This collaboration with The Broons will help us to get that message across.

"It's essential that patients and their loved ones understand that the impact of deconditioning and the loss of functional abilities of older people can result in being prematurely housebound or admitted to a nursing care home. Therefore, it's important to make patients and their families aware of these risks and support them to take necessary simple steps to prevent deconditioning during and after hospitalisation.

"We must ensure elderly and frail people remain as independent as possible. It is really important to both their physical and overall health and wellbeing. It maximises their independence and quality of life, provides a sense of purpose, and boosts their self-esteem and confidence."

Prof Brian Dolan OBE, a nurse who originated the #EndPJparalysis campaign and who appears as a character in this specially commissioned Broons story said: "Often one of the best things patients, especially older people, can do to get home from hospital sooner is to get out of their PJs and get up, dressed and moving. We know this can reduce the risk of falls, urine infections and much else and getting dressed can help a person feel like themselves again, boosting their wellbeing and confidence. Loved ones too can see the difference it makes and should be encouraged to bring clothes into the hospital and walk with their loved one to the canteen for a cup of tea where possible.

"Patients' time is the most important currency in healthcare and an important question for all of us is 'If you had 1,000 days left to live, how many would you choose to spend in hospital?' We know for the vast majority of us the answer is 'None' so let's be more like Granpaw Broon who says 'Get up, get dressed, an' get moving - the very dab!'"

The resource provides a comprehensive overview of the risks associated with deconditioning. The primary message conveyed by the legendary comic strip characters is the importance of getting up, getting dressed and getting moving as much as possible when they are staying in the hospital. It emphasises the significance of patients engaging in physical activity to maintain their independence and serves as a reminder that physical activity plays a crucial role in promoting the overall wellbeing and recovery of older people in the hospital and their home environment.

DC Thomson's content manager for heritage brands Kate McAuliffe commented: “We know that part of the enduring success of The Broons is that everyone can see a little bit of themselves in the characters. They've been entertaining readers for nearly 90 years and it's wonderful seeing how their lighthearted family-orientated storytelling can be combined with serious medical messages.

“The creative team have done an incredible job of weaving a story around Granpaw Broon being in hospital after some over-energetic dancing, and how keeping active puts a smile back on his face. There's even Horace teaching Granpaw about using his smartphone to read QR codes, in inimitable Broons fashion.

“We always say the Broons are 'Scotland's Happy Family That Makes Every Family Happy', and that really comes out in this partnership with the NHS."

The resource is scheduled to be officially launched on 12 February and will be circulated across all NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute Hospitals, and will prove to be a valuable asset in providing enhanced deconditioning information, guidance and advice directly to patients, their families and carers.

View or download the resource (as a pdf document) here: [url=]The Broons - Get Up, Get Dressed and Get Moving[/url]

To support the initiative sharing content on social media platforms, use the campaign hashtag #NHSBroons

Derek Laidler - Professional Lead Physiotherapist, Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership