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Issue:- 17 April 2014

Healing power of shared reading put to the test at Broadgreen

THE power of reading great literature to relieve chronic pain is being put to the test in a pilot study at Broadgreen Hospital. Initial results from a research project conducted in partnership with The Centre for Research Into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems at The University of Liverpool are already showing a positive link between attending the weekly shared reading group and the alleviation of chronic pain in patients. As a result, the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust has commissioned The Reader Organisation; a charitable social enterprise dedicated to changing lives through literature; to run the weekly shared reading sessions for the next 3 years, with further research planned.

Dr Andrew Jones, consultant in anaesthesia and pain medicine at Broadgreen, said the signs are good. "Early indications are showing that the reading group is making a difference to people in our hospital. But there is something intangible, a deeper impact beyond that, which we can't measure using existing qualitative research methods. People with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms such as mood or anxiety disorders, and depressed patients have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain. While there is already evidence of the mental health benefits of shared reading, little is known about the benefits for physical health, but the link between chronic pain and psychiatric symptoms indicate it could help."  The success of the project means it could be expanded into dialysis wards and other areas of physical health at Broadgreen and the Royal.  In the group, stories and poems are read aloud by a trained facilitator, who pauses regularly for the group to share their personal responses. Group members participate as much or as little as they like, taking a turn to read aloud and contributing to the discussions, or just taking the time to relax and listen. The group are currently reading 'The Pearl' by John Steinbeck, led by Kate McDonnell from The Reader Organisation. Kate said:- "Everyone in the group has a different pain story to tell, but in the session the focus is on the book or story we share together and on the wider lives and experience of the people who come rather than just the pain. Group members say that the sessions give them something new and interesting to talk about to people who know them; a different conversational currency; that they're able to forget their pain while we're reading and that it gives them a weekly lift."  Helen Cook, 35, from Tuebrook has a tumour in her pelvic bone and has pain in her pelvis, legs and back. Diagnosed two years ago, Helen had to give up her job as a supply teacher in Widnes.  She said:- "You can feel isolated with your condition so it's nice to be with people who are in pain but don't talk about it. If we didn't have the reading and just met and talked, it could become very negative; we could all bring each other down. But the reading provides an escape. It gives your brain a break. I was feeling down and in pain, but when I went home none of it was quite so bad."  Retired civil servant Alexander Parry, 72, of Bowring Park has had pain in his feet and hands for 24 years. It forced him to take early retirement and often prevents him from sleeping.

Alexander Parry said:- "One of the problems of having chronic pain is you tend to get depressed, when you're up all night and can't sleep. Coming to the reading group is like therapy. When I go home from here I have a spring in my step. I feel much better mentally."  Pauline Jones, 58, from Everton has cerebral palsy and suffers from severe back pain. Dr Jones recommended she go to the group and she hasn't looked back.  A former employee of Royal Sun Alliance, she said:- "I enjoy coming here; it keeps us occupied. We've all come here with terrible pain because you know it's taking the pain away." Sally Woodall, 57, from Woolton had a stroke on the bus to work in 2008. Since then, she has had two mini strokes. She now has neuralgia in her back and is no longer able to drive or work full time.  Sally, who works weekends as a nurse at the Royal in the out of hours service, said:- "When I first came I was in a right state. Within 6 to 8 months I was back in work again. The reading group certainly played a part in my recovery. This group and the research and what Dr Jones is doing got me back into work."

New nature trail offers much more to explore at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands

VISITORS can soon discover even more of nature's home thanks to the opening of a new trail at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands. The Reed and Fen trail will enable visitors to uncover a new area of the popular nature reserve at the South Western corner of the Wirral peninsula. Extending further around the wetland, the new trail runs across wildlife-friendly farmland and links to an older part of the reserve, known to locals as Inner Marsh Farm. The trail is the latest addition to the reserve, which also boasts the picturesque Burton Mere trail with its mature willows, alders and water lilies, plus the beginning of the Reed and Fen trail leading to the Marsh Covert hide. Dan Trotman, Visitor Development Officer at RSPB Dee Estuary reserves, said:- "The opening of the Reed and Fen trail is like 'Chapter 2' for Burton Mere Wetlands. The trails we've had open since 2011 are fantastically varied and full of life, but this new path opens up so much more space for visitors to really get a feeling of exploring the wild. With Inner Marsh Farm being a separate part of the reserve until now, many of our visitors have not yet had chance to enjoy the rich crop fields we plant for wildlife to thrive, or the winding avenue of willows down to the Inner Marsh Farm hide, overlooking the shallow pools and wetland that the RSPB created here more than 25 years ago. The lower part of the Farm and Willow trail is probably where visitors have the best chance of seeing a water vole on the reserve, whilst striking orchids and dancing dragonflies will decorate the new stretch of the Reed and Fen trail in the summer. The extended trails allow a walk of nearly 5 kilometers on the reserve, all the while immersed in tranquility and surrounded by a variety of wildlife. It's a fantastic place for all ages to come and explore."  The Reed and Fen trail will be open from:- 9.30am, on Good Friday, 18 April 2014. For more information on the reserve and its activities, please call the reserve on:- 0151 353 8478 or check out the website.

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