Nearly a year of armchair travel has provided us all with the opportunity to acquire new skills – the ability to navigate multiple video conferencing platforms, find the unmute button and the hand raise function. Thus far, I have only been defeated by Google Meet, which refuses to allow me to use my webcam without a flashing ghostly image being visible. It seems ironic to me that the group who most often use this platform are the team from NHSX, with whom we have a number of contact points, including on AI and iRefer.
Technology apart, there is also the skill of positioning the computer so the sun (when it appears) doesn’t obliterate the visual aspects of the interaction. Or, perhaps more importantly, when you adjust your position or pull the curtains you don’t reveal garishly coloured socks or, in the case of early morning meetings, pyjama bottoms. A whole new vocabulary has appeared with ‘legacy hand’ and ‘you are mute’ topping the charts.
While we all mourn the face-to-face networking opportunities and the chance to make new friends, there are some positives in the liberation of being physically present. This month, I was able to deliver a teaching session to Severn radiology trainees. Not as interactive a lecture as I normally give but a very interactive Q&A session afterwards hopefully made up for this. We have also embarked on a programme of virtual regional visits. I am very keen the RCR has relevance to you, our Fellows and members, and allowing as many folk as possible to share concerns directly with the Officer team, as well as be informed of what we are trying to achieve on your behalf should allow us to best shape our offer and activities. The process would have been unbelievably drawn out were we attempting to do it face to face (clinical oncology took six years to manage to get two of the Officer team round the country!).
Had there been no COVID-19, my autumn schedule included Liverpool (RCR2020), Melbourne (RANZCR), Hong Kong (joint admission ceremony and annual scientific meeting) and Chicago (RSNA). The RANZCR meeting was postponed and the RSNA business meetings are going ahead (time zone differences notwithstanding). I managed to deliver my ASM lecture and attend the Hong Kong College/RCR joint admission ceremony. The time difference meant an early start (sound check at 08:20 on a Saturday morning) but everything proceeded without incident. The admissions ceremonies are always a major highlight of the presidential year – they are joyous, triumphal occasions full of laughter and promise for the future. Attending virtually gave me some of that boost, but this was one occasion where face to face is undoubtedly better. I live in hope of the full experience in 2021.
For our own ceremonies it is looking increasingly likely that face-to-face options will not be available for the first half of 2021. We continue to monitor this with our venue and will reinstate face-to-face ceremonies as soon as safely possible. A thousand people in one room for three hours – what was routine 12 months ago is now almost unbelievable. I remain sure we will get back there at some point. I am saddened not to be able to physically welcome all who are our future consultant colleagues in person but that does not detract from your achievement in passing the FRCR in this dislocated time.
This month has seen quite a lot of activity for the RCR and our specialties nationally. The Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) radiology report was released by NHS England/Improvement (NHSEI). The GIRFT methodology uses data from radiology services to highlight variation in service delivery and share best practice. It also makes recommendations to improve patient care. As such the findings are applicable in all devolved nations and often globally. Perhaps unsurprisingly the message is clear – services can and should make quality improvements but to fully realise the benefit of imaging to patient care investment in workforce, kit and IT connectivity is essential. In combination with the Diagnostics: Recovery and Renewal (Richards) report there is a clear, consistent message about the essential position of imaging in facilitating the patient pathway for the vast majority of diseases. We will know how well this message has been acted upon in the UK with the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review as part of the 25 November budget. Given there will only be a single year settlement, it is likely we will be embarking on a continuing campaign to obtain the essential resources for oncology and radiology services to deliver the patient care the population deserve.
The Quality Standard for Imaging, a partnership venture between ourselves and the Society of Radiographers has announced an external review of the standard. Following input from stakeholders, the aim is to publish an improved standard next year. As part of this, we will be exploring ways to make the standard more relevant to the global imaging team. Improvements in quality drive improvements in patient care, so it is vital the revised standard drives improvement in an accessible way.
Despite the cautious optimism surrounding vaccination I think I will be armchair travelling for some time to come. I look forward to continuing to see you on virtual platforms (obviously fully dressed).
Dr Jeanette Dickson