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Older PeopleFeb 14, 2024

'Granpaw Broon' is a role model in a comic strip that was the 'brainchild' of physio Derek Laidler

NHS Highland has joined forces with the creators of the iconic comic strip characters known as The Broons to highlight the role that physiotherapists and nurses play in keeping older people fit and healthy.

In one of the hospital-based scenes depicted in specially commissioned comic strip, a nurse character tells a bed-ridden ‘Granpaw’ and his family: ‘The longer older patients stay in bed, the worse it can be for them. That’s why physiotherapists an’ nurses encourage them tae get up an’ dressed.’

Initially sceptical, Granpaw soon learns about the benefits of staying active, saying: ‘Mind, pyjamas say you’re unwell, clothes say you’re better.’

Professor Brian Dolan, a nurse by background who is behind the #EndPJParalysis Global Campaign, makes a guest appearance as himself in the strip, which first appeared in The Sunday Post’s Fun Section in March 1936.

Readers will be pleased to learn that Granpaw starts exercising regularly and takes to the dance floor in his kilt at a wedding party ‘twa’ (or two) months later. He also returns the medication he now longer needs to the pharmacy and learns how to use QR codes on a smartphone and download gardening tips.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) this morning, Professor Dolan praised the locally-based physiotherapist who provided the inspiration for the trailblazing initiative. ‘It was the brainchild of senior physio Derek Laidler @dlaider18 and we worked closely with @DC_Thomson [the Dundee-based publishing company] over the last 8 months in a real labour of love.’

Photo Credit: NHS Highland
The Broons comic strip was the 'brainchild' of professional lead physio Derek Laidler


Prevent deconditioning

In an article that appeared on NHS Highland’s website this week (12 February), Derek Laidler, professional lead physiotherapist with Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, said: ‘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.

Derek added: ‘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.’

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 [Derek Laidler]

'Striking a chord'

NHS Highland said it hoped that the strip featuring The Broons' ‘legendary characters’ would strike a chord with older people and their families, in particular. ‘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.’

NHS Highland pointed out that that older adults in hospital can spend as much as 95 per cent of their in their beds or chairs – which can lead to deconditioning and result in

  • serious implications for the long-term health and wellbeing of older adults
  • prolonged hospital stays
  • an increased risk of falls
  • a decreased ability to perform independent daily living tasks following discharge

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, NHS Highland added.

'Be more like Granpaw Broon'

Professor Dolan 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.

Professor Dolan added: ‘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!”’

'Scotland's Happy Family That Makes Every Family Happy'

Kate McAuliffe, DC Thomson's content manager for heritage brands, said: '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 light-hearted family-orientated storytelling can be combined with serious medical messages.'

Kate added: ‘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.'

Physio Derek Laidler backs #EndPJParalysis

Speaking about the #EndPJParalysis Global Campaign, Derek said it had ‘highlighted awareness of the adverse effects of deconditioning’.

Derek added: ‘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.’

To view or download the resource (as a pdf document), click 

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


Author: I A McMillan
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