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The President's Blog

The President's Blog - October 2020

The Association of Anaesthetists’ year starts at the Annual Members Meeting (AMM) each September. This year, of course, we were unable to conduct the AMM during an Annual Congress meeting; however, we held a very successful online Links/SAS Links/TNLs meeting combined with the AMM and a keynote lecture from Tim Cook. At that event we said goodbye to several Board members and thank you to several officers whose roles have changed. It was my duty and pleasure to pay thanks on behalf of the Association to Kathleen Ferguson as she completed her two-year term as President and handed over the reins to me. I thanked her, on your behalf, for her leadership, for her humility, for her attention to detail, for her commitment to equality and diversity, for her advice and for her friendship. 

I hope to use these President’s Blogs as a way of informing the membership about what the Board and staff have been doing on your behalf. 

One of my personal commitments as incoming President is to improve our communications with members. It's always difficult to get the balance right between timely messages and information overload. I hope to use these President’s Blogs as a way of informing the membership about what the Board and staff have been doing on your behalf. 

As I write this, we are entering the second surge of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is difficult to predict the impact on each of us, on healthcare systems and our patients, and on society in general. Tim Cook’s keynote lecture during the virtual event for our Links and AMM meeting on Sept 25th was a timely if somewhat scary reminder of risks associated with Covid-19. The Association has been working on your behalf throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so. We have another of our very successful free Covid-19 webinars on Saturday October 10th – this one is focused on getting back to normal. The impact of the current surge on elective activity is currently unknown. Not surprisingly, governments and healthcare systems want to try and preserve elective activity as much as they can. We met with Steve Powis Medical Director of NHS England last month focusing on new ways of working. Prof Powis emphasised the importance of maintaining non-urgent surgery, and we committed ourselves to several actions to assist with that.

There is no doubt that the new ways of working will include a much more multi-professional workforce. The issue of Anaesthesia Associates (AAs; previously known as PA(A)s) is one of the true Marmite issues in anaesthesia. It is my opinion, and I think that shared by many others, that the numbers of AAs in training will be increased and their role promoted by our governments.  We could put our collective heads in the sand, but these changes will still go ahead. Now that their regulation by the GMC has been announced we have opted to work with the GMC and will be represented on working groups looking at education, standards and fitness to practice processes. We think engaging and influencing from the inside will be much more effective, but I appreciate this will not suit everyone. Like it or not, the pandemic has highlighted the value of an expanded, multi-skilled and adaptable workforce; a rubicon has been crossed.

To ensure the best experience for our membership we’ve bought a new learning management system to deliver WSM as an online event. 

Our Events team and Education Committee are planning the Winter Scientific Meeting. I imagine the majority of members and delegates would prefer a real, physical meeting – with the extra richness of experience that comes from meeting face-to-face, the opportunity for chats over coffee or lunch, of visiting the industry exhibition, and of bumping into old friends. There are, of course, others who find the whole thing rather tiring, expensive and not particularly environmentally friendly. We’ve thought long and hard about what to do, and it does seem that our only option at present is a virtual meeting. While the Board asked the Events team to retain the possibility of adding in a physical element, that seems increasingly unlikely. To ensure the best experience for our membership we’ve bought a new learning management system to deliver WSM as an online event. As you might expect there are numerous companies competing to deliver these events. I think the one we have chosen will help us provide a new type of experience, with some possibilities that a physical event does not allow. We are not transforming the Association into an ‘online only’ organisation, but ‘needs must’ and being nimble and embracing new technology is part and parcel of the profession of anaesthesia. Bill Fawcett and Chris Mowatt, the outgoing and incoming Chairs of the Education Committee, have developed a great program. See you there!

I can’t write a blog without mentioning wellbeing. It is so integral to the Association and so vital during the extraordinary circumstances we currently live in. Do access the wellbeing pages on our website. We will continue to develop our own resources and signpost those from other organisations. And, just one request from me, please check those around you at work, as a quiet word of support or encouragement may make a huge difference to them.

Mike Nathanson



Twitter: @mikenathanson61