The President's Blog - November 2020
We are now, clearly, in another significant surge of the pandemic. The Association has heard of real pressures in various parts of the country: many patients with COVID-19 on wards and in critical care; episodes of likely nosocomial spread; large numbers of healthcare workers self-isolating; and, disruption of surgical activity, despite efforts locally and nationally to maintain an elective service.
Our trainees took a big hit in the first surge, and since then they have been affected by changes to the FRCA examination and to recruitment. The recruitment processes at CT1 and ST3 are changing again; some refinements were needed after the problems with the ST3 round a few months ago. We campaigned hard based on our belief that the self-assessment process could discriminate against certain groups. We received some reassurances from the statutory education bodies that the changes to the current round would reduce this risk. The Trainee Committee are now undertaking a survey of trainee experiences. If any of this has affected you, please do complete the survey so we can represent your views.
The Association Board is looking to balance our desire to maintain activities such as educational meetings, guidelines, grant awards, international work and our joint work with other organisations, and the need to prioritise clinical work as we are placed on emergency rotas. This affects our Board, speakers, faculty, volunteers and others we work with. At the beginning of the first surge we shut down many workstreams but maintained the main governance processes to ensure the Association (as an entity) got through the emergency. This time we have a little more time and certainly more experience to allow us finesse how we manage this surge. Most importantly, we recognise that our actions and experiences reflect what every member, their departments and their households up and the down the country are doing this week. We all know the wide impact of the surge and this current national lockdown on society, the economy, our patients and on our colleagues. We have updated the wellbeing guidance on our website, with new links and resources. As I have asked you before, please do check on your colleagues. A small act of kindness or support, or an expression of concern can make a huge difference.
As I mentioned above, there is much effort being expended on trying to maintain elective, cancer and other non-urgent services including surgery and diagnostics. Within London a plan has been developed to create a hub-and-spoke model, prioritising some services such as cataract surgery and joint replacement surgery. Similar projects in other parts of NHS England are underway. Of course, we broadly support such moves, but there is a need to ensure high-quality care and that patient safety is not compromised. Further, many clinical teams have not had time to fully recharge their batteries since the first surge. We have joined the groups created in the last few weeks to deliver this service, and will offer advice, encouragement and warnings as appropriate.
The first pandemic surge came with many surprises. The editors of our journals – Anaesthesia and Anaesthesia Reports – were worried that submissions would fall as colleagues concentrated on clinical work. In fact, they saw the reverse, with a large increase in submissions. We have increased the number of editors to ensure the workload is manageable. We are always hugely grateful to the Editor-in-Chief, Andy Klein, and his team of editors and production staff for publishing month in, month out, such successful journals. Next year marks the 75th anniversary of the first publication of Anaesthesia. There is an ambitious range of activities to mark this achievement – look out for the first of these in the New Year.
Last month I described how we were planning to deliver the Winter Scientific Meeting in a new format. The Chair of the Education Committee – Chris Mowatt, and our Events team led by Zack Puttock are working incredibly hard with our online conference provider – The Live Group, to produce a high-quality ‘product’ in January. Like many, I will miss the physical meeting and its opportunities to meet, socialise and learn with colleagues. In my opinion we cannot easily replace that, but we can offer something new and different and take advantage of the technology to do things differently. Providing we all get through the next two months and are not subsumed by work before then, I do hope we can come together online for a great event.
Finally, I’d like to finish this month’s blog by expressing my thanks to the Boards and Committees of the Association for all the work they do for you – the members. They could not do this without the support of our fantastic staff. We were very disappointed not to be able to reopen our headquarters at 21 Portland Place last month. For our staff, this was a heavy blow and I’d like to thank them publicly for their perseverance and continuing efforts for us. We remain open for business!