Friday, 13 May 2011


I had a great time at the BDA conference, although it differed quite a bit from my expectations. There were fewer delegates than I was expecting, and based on my experience running conferences in the past, the budget was a great deal larger than ours was. There was more sitting and listening to eminent dietitians and less up to date and relevant practical information from the field.

To open the conference they had Martyn Lewis, who used to be a TV newsreader and whose appearance fee is probably comparable with the entire budget of the conferences that I used to be involved in. He 'interviewed' a couple of luminaries in the world of dietetics about the history of the Association, now in its 75th year. We also listened to a talk about Elsie Widdowson, who in the late 1930's helped to compile the comprehensive tables of the chemical composition of food that we still use in their sixth edition.

One of the two breakfast briefings I attended was about the benefits of probiotic bacteria: the sort that are found in yogurts and yogurt drinks. It turns out that a) there actually is evidence for benefit in prevention/treatment of bloating in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and diarrhoea associated with antibiotic treatment and C. diff infection, and b) the strain of bacteria matters, so different products benefit different conditions.

During the main part of the second day there were sessions on the theme of 'Outcomes', which feature prominently in the plans for the future NHS as a way of evaluating the quality and value of input by the different healthcare professionals involved in delivering patient care. Establishing valid and positive dietetic outcomes will help to minimise the risk of dietetic services being cut in the next inevitable round of cost savings.

The third day was more practical, and included a terrific presentation about an audit in Oxford that reviewed the use of nasogastric tubes and gastrostomies during treatment of head and neck cancer. I also found out more about how the dietetic profession tries to ensure continuous professional development among its members, but glazed over when a management consultant talked about the future of commissioning within the NHS.

My poster
My poster time was on Wednesday. Each presenter had 2 minutes to talk about the research behind their poster, and there was time for a question or two. Because my session was right at the end of the conference, and there were only four posters (and only three presenters turned up), I was lucky that my tutors and lecturers and fellow students rallied round for me, so we had a decent crowd.

The main benefit of being there was networking, which was surprisingly easy, and I had very informative conversations with all sorts of experienced dietitians as well as those just starting out. One ex-student from Nottingham has been engaged in a full time PhD for three years, and thinks that this is enough to prevent him from going back to clinical dietetics. A freelance dietitian advised me that it takes 3 or 4 years of clinical dietetics before a dietitian really has the baseline knowledge and experience to branch out into freelancing. Another told me that she had taken every temporary short-term job that was available until eventually she found something full-time. I asked everyone whether they thought that the department where they worked was likely to be recruiting graduate dietitians, and all were fairly pessimistic about budgets, especially while the NHS reforms were still under review and nothing was certain.

I met the editor of Dietetics Today, the professional journal of the BDA. She was thinking of writing something about students or from a student perspective, so we talked about that for a bit. I mentioned that I don't live very near the university, so she asked where I live, and it turns out that a) she lives less than 5 miles away from my home, and b) she walked past our Royal Wedding street party to go to the park with her family. Then I sat down with a dietitian working in Coventry who lives even nearer to my home, and we even found that we have a mutual friend. It's a small world.

A final highlight: Lingering around the registration desk, I was invited to a forum to discuss the involvement of Kelloggs, the cereal company, in the provision of information for dietitians and their patients. Despite being a student with zero experience of actual independent dietetic practice beyond two supervised 12-week placements, I was still given a £25 voucher for my troubles. Result!

I have come away with a few key messages. Jobs are going to be hard to find, and I will probably have to accept that I may have to accept a short term post and work away from home, at least at first. On the other hand, I have a few other ideas which may occupy some of my time while hunting those elusive jobs, and may even bring in some income.

The next three weeks are going to be fully occupied with revision, assessments and exams, and I had actually forgotten how dull and frustrating revision is. Oh well, not long now.


A Heron's View said...

Blood & macular eye pressure can be reduced to normal levels, by taking half a teaspoonful of cayenne pepper in water three times a day. If this was adopted the NHS would save millions, as it is only 'alternatives' like myself use this measure.

Lola said...

From some quick online research, cayenne is reported anecdotally to lower blood pressure, probably through vasodilation. I can't find any peer-reviewed references, however, and therefore would continue to suggest convential medication and low sodium intake, where there is very convincing evidence from reliable trials. Lowering salt intake is a very cost-effective hypertension treatment which the NHS thoroughly endorses.

Intraocular pressure is regulated by quite different mechanisms, and is a feature of glaucoma rather than macular disease. Even so, I can find no reputable data associating cayenne or capsaicin with improvement or prevention of either glaucoma or macular disease. Can you point me at an appropriate reference?

A Heron's View said...

"I can find no REPUTABLE data associating cayenne"

It rather depends on what you consider to be reputable.

For reputable: in relation to medicinal herbs & uses is confounded by the pharmaceutical industry who sole purpose is to sell drugs.

Unfortunately the medical doctors receive about 1 week of training in herbs during their 5years of study.

There are however trained medical herbalists who are very aware of the uses of cayenne pepper & it is to they I employ to keep me healthy.

Lola said...

Rather than giving me a lecture, just point me at the evidence that the herbalists use, then you may convince me. If there is no evidence that a treatment works, then I would rightly be struck off the Register of Dietitians if I prescribed it.

Medical doctors receive about 1 week of training in nutrition duyring their 5 years. That's why I've been training for 4 years to become a Registered Dietitian.

A Heron's View said...

It was not my intention to lecture you Lola, simply to state clearly my knowledge.

Here are three web sites of organisations so that you can conduct your own research.

Lola said...

Thanks for the links - I have learned that herbal and traditional medicine practitioners will be regulated under the same body that regulates dietitians.

I can still see no evidence linking cayenne to the treatment of hypertension and high intraocular pressure, except on a website devoted to promoting cayenne. I don't consider this to be valid evidence, in the same way as a website promoting ketchup that is run by Heinz might not be considered impartial.

The Napiers website does not include remedies for these conditions either. I'm afraid I wouldn't consider recommending cayenne pepper on the basis of anything I've found so far.