Advanced Care Research Centre

ACRC Spring Symposium

Last week, 120 delegates came together for the third annual ACRC Symposium.

They heard presentations from a diverse range of topics and sectors, with speakers from across the ACRC and beyond, including a keynote speech by Professor Sir Gregor Smith, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO).

It was an informative, inspiring and thought-provoking two days of discussion, and shared learning. There were plenaries, posters, exhibitions, and given we are working in a more digital age, ample time dedicated to face-to-face networking with colleagues, old and new.

PS Gregor Smith presenting to ACRC sympsoium

The welcome was given by Professor David Grayson, from our Advisory Board, and our first session, on ‘Ageing in a Time of Crisis’, was kicked off with Peter Smith from our PPIE group giving his personal thoughts about growing older. He was followed by Professor Christina Boswell, University of Edinburgh’s Vice Principal for Research and Enterprise, who linked the ACRC story into the wider university strategy. Our keynote speaker was Professor Sir Gregor Smith, Scotland’s CMO, who gave a comprehensive overview of how the Scottish Government is aiming to improve health and wellbeing. He discussed the importance of greenspaces, how healthcare needs to have a positive impact, and ensuring people can get the right care, at the right time, whether they are at home, or in a homely setting such as a care home.

Our second session ‘Ageing in Place: supporting choices in where to live and work’ was chaired by Dr Margaret Whoriskey, from the Academy Advisory board, who introduced fellow board member Dr Donald Macaskill from Scottish Care for a plenary on how people continue to live in their own homes.

Donald was followed by ACRC’s Dr Imran Saied for an update on the magnificent work the WP6 team has been doing around unobtrusive sensing in the home, and Dr Andrew Kingston from the Newcastle team on some of their work on the Newcastle 85+ study.

Professor Linda McKie, from King’s College London followed them with an insight into the work the Healthier Working Lives team has done for older workers in the care sector, and the session was closed by Dr Kate Gibson, also from Newcastle, about how older people age in place, from their own perspective.

image of conference

To close day one, we were lucky enough to have representatives from Pathhead Choir sing two songs from their original repertoire as part of the evening reception. These fabulous songs were written by members as part of a songwriting project around older age, which seemed a perfect fit.

Day two started with a session looking at the importance of communities and neighbourhoods, and was chaired by Professor Sir Lewis Ritchie, our Advisory Board Chair. First speaker was ACRC’s Dr Jacob Sheahan, who spoke about the Scottish “carescape”, and then Professor Alan Marshall who spoke about the relationship between neighbourhoods and multimorbidity, and the impact of deprivation. The final presentation was a pre-recorded video from Professor Alex Mihailidis from AGE-WELL Canada, on naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs).

The latter stages of the first session saw a fireside chat between Professor Susan Shenkin from WP7 and Professor Catharine Ward Thompson from WP4. The discussion covered a variety of topics around older adults, and research, including a chat about how important it is to not be afraid of failure. This was followed by an interview of ACRC Director Professor Bruce Guthrie by ACRC Academy Student Laurence Rowley-Abel. The interview covered a variety of topics, including the direction of research and collaborations.

Our next session allowed delegates the space, time and opportunity to visit the posters and exhibitions, and was chaired by Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam, from the Glasgow School of Art, another member of the ACRC Advisory Board. Dr Nichole Fernandez spoke about the Images of Care project, which took pride of place at the entrance to the auditorium. Our exhibition offerings included a look at the SHAW project, Supporting Health Ageing at Work, and two audio journeys: one looking at dementia care, and the other a day in the life of being a remote and rural postie. There were 25 high-quality posters, and a very close-run thing led to the poster prize being awarded to Academy Student Ellie Falkingham.

Our final session covered complex interventions, and was chaired by Professor Alan Marshall from WP5. First speaker was Professor Bruce Guthrie, who spoke about clinical risk prediction around multimorbidity, before Carol Brown and Neil Grant from the Scottish Government’s Social Care Analytics Unit with an overview into evidence-based policy making. Then Dr Stella Arakelyan, from AIM-CISC presented on her important research around improving pathways of care for people with multiple long-term conditions, and Dr Huayu Zhang, about the WP3 work on free-text addresses.

Images of Care exhibition boards

This was followed by a panel session with Dr Leona Carroll, Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership, Professor Stewart Mercer, Deputy Director, ACRC, Professor Julie Jacko, Chair of Health Informatics and Data Science and Co-Head of the Centre for Medical Informatics at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, Debbie Smith, PPIE Group Member and ACRC Advisory Board Member, Professor Dame Louise Robinson, Regius Professor of Ageing, Newcastle University, ACRC. The panel answered a series of questions put to them from colleagues across the ACRC, and engaged in lively debate.

The symposium was closed with final thoughts. Jo Turnbull, a PPIE Group member, offered a beautiful public perspective of how the presentations related to those in older age and Professor Jill Manthorpe interwove some of the topics of the day with her own experiences on the front line as she wrapped up the day

Across the two days there really was a definitive buzz. While darting around the venue looking for speakers or viewing the posters, there was always the hum of conversation and scatterings of laughter in the background. The presentations hit a perfect blend of informative and interesting, and the exhibitions offered a colourful depth to the more traditional offerings.

The team behind the symposium had a busy two days (weeks, months?) but it was all worth it in the end, as it was an excellent two days which we thoroughly enjoyed. We thank all poster presenters, speakers, exhibition hosts and speakers for contributing to a wonderful experience. 

We’ll give it a week before we start planning the next one…