Unleashing potential reaps rewards

09 March 2017


“People can die if it’s not detected so someone had to do something to fix it,” says Dr Mani Santhana Krishnan (known as Krish among his colleagues), when asked about his work on increasing awareness of delirium – a frightening state of mental confusion that can affect around 20% of patients but which is not always detected.

A Consultant Psychiatrist (Old Age Psychiatry) and Associate Clinical Director at Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, Krish won the NHS Leadership Recognition Award for Inspirational Leader in 2017 for his work on raising the profile of delirium and how awareness of it improves patient care. He and his team also won the Royal College of Psychiatrists Team of the Year award in 2016 for his delirium work.

One of Krish’s big passions is increasing awareness of delirium among his colleagues. He explains: “The condition is not well recognised in hospitals yet I’ve seen it in so many wards. It’s simple to detect and can be serious and deadly when not noticed. Someone had to do something to fix the problem, so I thought it would be useful to create training materials to educate people.”

He began with a survey to find out how confident staff were in detecting delirium. The findings confirmed his belief that training would be useful and he submitted a business case to fund course materials.

Around the time of submitting the business case, Krish’s senior clinical director signposted him to the NHS North East Leadership Academy’s Clinical Leaders Programme, which aims to develop and improve the leadership skills of very senior clinicians to lead safe, innovative, high quality services.

“I’ve always sought opportunities to develop my skills and had some clear goals, which I believed the programme would help me achieve,” explains Krish. “I knew I had the potential but was unsure about my abilities – it was a confidence issue – but the programme rubber-stamped the fact that I’m actually doing the right things and thinking straight.”

The structure of the Clinical Leaders Programme gave Krish the opportunity to attend networking events, master classes and workshops, which meant he got to listen to people from different walks of life and expand his horizons.

“The most valuable thing I learned from the Clinical Leaders Programme was around the importance of developing collaborative working, identifying the skills of colleagues and delegating work appropriately,” says Krish. “More broadly it gave me permission to have bigger ideas and dreams. I don’t have to limit myself to being a local doctor, doing local things.”

His delirium awareness project also expanded and Krish created a video that shares information and statistics about delirium, used in training sessions and at conferences. In addition he produced a business card highlighting clinical features of delirium, given to healthcare practitioners at training sessions. 

Krish has also shared his work internationally, presenting to the American Delirium Society in Nashville, the European Delirium Society in Portugal, and the Scottish Delirium Association. At the Scottish event, people all over world watched it live through social media proving that geography is no barrier to increasing awareness.

Krish has plans to progress his work on delirium awareness much further. “I want the North East to be a world hub for delirium awareness,” he states. “I’ve got the passion to drive it forward and take people along with me, and will continue to deliver workshops. We have successfully done two regional conferences on Delirium with the January 2017 event exclusively focused on delirium awareness for care homes. The conferences attracted over 350 delegates and international speakers. We’re planning the next regional conference in June, have another video lined up and are looking into develop an app to help healthcare professionals.”

Wednesday 15 March 2017 is World Delirium Day and although Krish is leading work to raise awareness across the North East, he will be in India. “My mum had delirium before she passed away earlier this year. While she was being cared for I gave a talk to the doctors and nurses in the hospital where she was a patient. On World Delirium Day I’m going back to the same hospital to deliver a lecture and launch an educational programme in a nursing college in India. I will also be speaking in Chennai at a multispecialty hospital where I am hoping to collaborate with the team to develop delirium education in India.” 

Follow Krish on Twitter @psychinformatic