29 May 2018

Birkenhead School’s first Healthcare Conference was held at the end of April, implemented to expand provision of careers advice concentrating on individual professional sectors.

Students from Year 9 and above, along with alumni of Birkenhead School, were invited to attend the evening to gain insight from a wide range of representatives from the healthcare sector. A huge amount of voluntary support was made from the School community, and from volunteers, who offered valuable advice.

The event was headed up by special guest, eminent physician and former Birkenhead School parent, Sir Ian Gilmore, who provided an inspiring keynote speech to start the proceedings. Sir Ian Gilmore is the previous president of the Royal College of Physicians of London. He is a Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist at the Royal Liverpool University Hospitals and Honorary Professor at the Department of Medicine, University of Liverpool.

Presentations were then given from a nurse, a dentist, an optician, a vascular surgeon and an anaesthetist, who focussed on their roles and what their jobs entail. This was followed by a debate on the future of the NHS, featuring Sir Ian Gilmore, pharmacist Jasmeen Islam, GP Andy McKeown, and NHS Chief Executive Steve Warburton.

Greg, Year 12, asked the panel, “In light of the bed crisis the NHS is suffering from at the moment, how do you think the NHS should combat the challenge of having “medically fit” patients not being discharged from hospital as they are awaiting relocation?” This question encouraged debate on responsible discharge protocols, issues around Community Care Provision and Social Care. Questions on technological advancement and privatisation from Sixth Form students Hannah and Arib, gave way to discussions on personalised healthcare, Genomics, and the impact on the future role of a doctor. Other issues raised were wastage in prescription drugs and considering if a politics-free National Health Service is possible, or right.

The lively debate from the panel and questions from the audience then progressed to the informal segment of the evening where students and their families were given the opportunity to ask advice from the array of professionals who had given their time to come and speak to them.

Representatives included surgeons, anaesthetists, GPs and geneticists, dentists and orthodontic specialists, optometrists, a paramedic, nurses, physiotherapists, a psychiatrist, a dietician, and a midwife. In addition, there were also members from the field of technology who made medical equipment, and those who work in education as lecturers in healthcare fields. There was also a number of voluntary organisations, such as Wirral Hospice St John’s, Claire House and Home-Start Wirral, who were able to offer advice on gaining valuable work experience opportunities.

Earlier in the day, younger members of Birkenhead School had also been given the chance to learn more about healthcare professions when they were visited by Tom from the Medical Mavericks. In his ‘Human Guinea Pig’ show, Tom brought along with him a variety of interactive tests and experiments used in the medical world and showed the different professionals who might use them in the real world, with the help of video footage. Years 5 to 8 were able to see a heartbeat monitor in use, take a photograph of the inside of their eye using an iPhone, and see the veins under their skin with an infra-red scanner.

Headmaster, Paul Vicars, said, “Thank you to all of those who gave generously of their time to provide advice to our students, your assistance was much appreciated. Given the considerable interest of our students in entering healthcare professions, plus the large number of our parents and alumni who work in this area, we had hoped to be able to inspire and help our students, not only through their education at Birkenhead School, but through the advice and guidance of our community. We were not disappointed, as the sheer volume of those who came forward to get involved was testament to the invaluable community spirit of Birkenhead School. We hope that this conference will be the springboard for similar events in the future.”

The next conferences will be focussing on Engineering and Design, to be held in January 2019, and Media and Performing Arts in April 2019. For more information, or to offer to give advice at either of these conferences, please contact Carol Keegan, Alumni Officer, on carol.keegan@birkenheadschool.co.uk or 0151 651 3098.