Dreich weather has kept many of us back from fully partaking in the increased freedoms the governments of the four UK nations are allowing. Or is it that one needs a degree in advanced logic to work out what you are permitted to do on any given date, in any given location? The arguments over what is essential, especially in travel (and shopping) are coming to the fore, as they did this time last year. Is a holiday abroad justifiable, especially to a country where healthcare may still be struggling with the immediate effects of the pandemic? How does that weigh against travelling to visit close, often elderly, relatives in far flung areas of the globe (where the effects of the pandemic remain stark, unmitigated by vaccine or available healthcare capacity) who haven’t been seen, sometimes for nearly two years? What is the ongoing impact on mental health for us all from continued isolation from friends and relatives? Or, perhaps more importantly, what about those folk who have ongoing ‘stranger’ or ‘contact’ anxiety? I have watched over the past year as my neighbours walk a wider berth round me on the way to the shops. Increasingly, many of them routinely wear a mask outdoors. In the longer term, we need to support folk to meet without anxiety. If we do not, then social and health inequalities will continue to widen everywhere. The UK population, which did not access healthcare at the same level pre-pandemic, will have another layer of deprivation added, with negative consequences.
At the weekend, I visited a large indoor shopping centre with a friend – a sort of variation on our normal weekend exercise routine. The shock of being amongs so many people was surprising to someone who has continued to go to work and see colleagues and patients through the pandemic. How difficult will it be for someone who has worked entirely from home? And has little background knowledge of health? Apart from the number of people, my tiredness that evening underlined that my physical stamina is reduced. The definite demonstration of what I have (really) known for a while brought home that this will take me (and many others) an additional effort to recover. I remember how knackered I was returning to clinical medicine following my (sedentary) MD. Being busy is not the same as being active. I definitely need to prioritise a personalised recovery plan – my genetic heritage is not the best.
The joint Faculty publication on wellbeing Care is not just for the patient, is a timely reminder that caring for our own health, physical and mental, is a key component of safe patient care. The document is not long, and is an easy read. Support for all our Fellows and members is an important aspect of what we want to achieve. The standards documents and high-quality educational resources we produce are the main plank of how we do this, which is why I look forward to promoting our publications. We aim to support all colleagues across their entire career, allowing them to develop into the best clinician they can be. The technical problems with the recent FRCR exams has cut to the heart of what we want to achieve, which is why the entire team, staff and Officers alike have been personally affected by the fallout. We will work through the problems and deliver a remote, quality solution, unfortunately just not in the timeframe we had wanted.
The FRCR examination is only one facet of training and we have worked hard with the statutory education bodies throughout the UK to support training recovery. The development of bespoke training solutions enabling colleagues in training to progress their careers following the pandemic is a key part of this. We are actively gathering the innovative training solutions adopted during the pandemic to share best practice and encourage roll-out across all training programmes.
For those UK-based clinicians not in training, we welcome the confirmation that the pared back, streamlined Appraisal 2020, which the RCR actively contributed to developing via the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges will remain as the default appraisal tool for the rest of this year, in England at least. As I have said before I think this approach improves the experience of appraisal and brings it back to what it should be – a reflective discussion in a safe space about achievements and challenges and what the future could and should be. We are pushing for it to become the default model for 2022 and beyond.
In addition to recovery, we are seeing much of the work we anticipated coming forward last year suddenly appearing as well. Coupled with the inevitable delays due to ‘purdah’ around the recent UK elections, this means the number of consultations we are being asked to respond to is much larger than normal. The result is more (often quite weighty and sometimes opaque) documents for the us all to read, digest, decide if a response is needed (which will help advance the practice of radiology and oncology or support our colleagues at the coal face) and then formulate it. The RCR policy team have their work cut out to draw together our response, while ensuring that deadlines (which are often short) are not missed. One especially contentious area, for England and Wales, is the national Clinical Excellence Awards scheme and, given the wide breadth of your views on this subject, we would encourage you to respond directly to this consultation – the closing date is12:15 on 16 June 2021.
With a gentle prod reminding me I am need to develop my aerobic fitness, some annual leave sounds like just the time to launch the new, improved, unlocked down me. I will update you next month.
Dr Jeanette Dickson