The Diabetes UK Professional Conference was hosted in the Manchester Central Convention Complex on 13-15 March 2013. With over 3,000 pre-registered delegates, there can be no doubt that Diabetes UK has found a successful formula for its annual get-together. However, it did lead me to compare and contrast with the last time its forerunner, the British Diabetic Association (BDA) held the Medical and Scientific Section Meeting in the same city.
The flavour of the meeting in April 1989 (ending on the day of the Hillsborough tragedy) was very different. For a start, there were two meetings per year (the second would be held in Nottingham) and the attendees were almost entirely doctors with a hospital background. To emphasise this, the BDA Education Section ran a separate annual conference which allowed for ‘nurses, dieticians, chiropodists, psychologists and other professionals’ to come together (1). General Practitioners with a special interest in diabetes were uncommon and didn’t come to the meeting.
In contrast, attendance at the meeting for consultants and middle-grade junior doctors was almost obligatory and careers were made and broken in the bear-pit that was the plenary session. The splendour of the Manchester Central Convention Complex was unknown back then (a comparison of the Hillsborough stadium with Old Trafford is probably appropriate) and the meetings were typically held in University facilities. The ‘great and the good’ of the diabetes world were also satisfied with basic University accommodation unlike the current meetings which immediately lead to full-bookings at all the high-quality city hotels. It is probably no coincidence that I do not recall the lavish exhibition stands which are now standard fare.
Most people would accept that the meetings have lost their scientific edge and the ‘feel’ of a consultants club has gone (and probably best resides with the Association of British Consultant Diabetologists (ABCD), set up to represent their interests). However, some things never change; the weather in Manchester was a bit rubbish and people still speak of HbA1c in percentages…
Reference: 1. Kyne-Grzebalski D & Felton AM Diabetic Medicine 1989;6:631-2
Professor Steve Bain