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Alpha, Beta, Delta: the rollercoaster of variants

As clinicians, we are accustomed in dealing with uncertainty, change and loss in our professional lives. However, the ongoing pandemic, with its new SARS-CoV-2 variants, is having a huge impact on our personal lives, too. The latest Health and Social Care Select Committee report describes increased incivility, burnout and resignations in England. The RCP has highlighted the need to expand the workforce, as staff shortages, which lead to chronic excessive workload, is a key factor in burnout.

In Wales, we continue to call on our government to increase the number of medical student places, expand training numbers, proactively recruit to vacant posts and deliver a robust workforce plan for the NHS. In the meantime, please take care of yourselves, be kind to one another, and access the resources available to you. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 variants mean we will have to continue living with some uncertainty.

As our members in the Indian subcontinent continue to experience immense pressure in their second wave, Dr Vivek Goel reflects below on what the situation is like for doctors and their families and friends in both India and the UK. Our thoughts are with everyone battling the pandemic, not only in India, but across the world. We are so fortunate to have had such a robust vaccine rollout and uptake in Wales.

An overwhelming response to this year’s trainee poster competition

On a more optimistic note, we have had an overwhelming response to our poster competition with over 50 submissions. I’m really looking forward to being part of the judging panel; it’s a great opportunity to see the amazing work our doctors in training are doing, and I always learn something new! Another prize, the Turner-Warwick lecturer scheme, has also been popular. We have also been busily working on the programme for our virtual conference on 8–9 December, where you will have the opportunity to hear our 2019 and 2020 poster winners present their work.

At the heart of Welsh government

At the quarterly Welsh Academy of Medical Royal Colleges meeting, we heard from the chief medical officer, Dr Frank Atherton. After updating us all on the success of the Welsh vaccine rollout, he reassured the group that the new minister for health and social care, Baroness Eluned Morgan MS, and her deputy ministers Julie Morgan MS (social services) and Lynne Neagle MS (mental health and wellbeing) are signed up to the 2019 ‘A Healthier Wales’ vision. This provides some continuity and reminds me that the National Clinical Framework was published earlier this year. Tackling health inequalities is a major challenge and we hope that there will be a cross-government strategy to address this. We have already written to the minister to ask her for a meeting.

RCP involvement in consultant appointments

RCP representation on consultant interview panels has been on our radar for a few months. We have had reports of several appointment panels taking place without RCP representation. It is currently a legal requirement to have a college representative on a consultant interview panel. Please contact us if you have reports of interview panels coming up without an RCP representative.

Help us improve your working conditions by influencing government and NHS workforce planning

Continuing our successful series of surveys about the impact of COVID-19, we are asking you to tell us if it has made a difference to your working pattern. It should take you no longer than 10 minutes to answer this short survey, which asks about changes that were made, whether they have become permanent, what you ideally want your working pattern to be, and how that can be enabled. We will share our findings with the Welsh government and Health Education and Improvement Wales.

And finally…

The recent warm weather has drawn me back into my garden – my summer project is to build a dry-stone wall, which provides all sorts of challenges, but I’m sure it will be highly satisfying when it stays up!

Stay safe,

Dr Olwen Williams OBE

RCP vice president for Wales 

Consultant physician in sexual health and HIV medicine

A message from Dr Vivek Goel

The COVID-19 variant B.1.617.2 has spread like wildfire in the Indian subcontinent.

The spread has been at a scale not seen before and has caught the country on the wrong foot, just when it was felt the virus had been ‘managed’ in India. The scale of the epidemic can be gauged from the fact that virtually everyone you speak to has lost a relative or close friend. The suffering has been unbearable, even from afar.

It is a time of huge distress for the diaspora here in Wales. The usual impulse when we hear that someone is seriously unwell is to rush back, but with the travel restrictions that has not been possible. The scenes on social media and news channels have been heart-breaking.

WhatsApp video calls have become a daily feature to provide emotional support and reassurance for everyone. Our health board has allowed staff to make calls during working hours. The innovative among us have done video consults from far afield, a life-saver to communities living in the interiors with limited access to healthcare.

Generous donations have been made; supplies have been shipped.  

Everyone is doing what they can.

Let us all pray for the health and wellbeing of our friends and families.

Dr Vivek Goel FRCP

RCP regional adviser for south east Wales

Consultant physician in gastroenterology

You can support the BAPIO India Covid Fund, which is supporting not just oxygen delivery, but virtual consultations and testing. Several groups are offering help with virtual consultations, but it is important this is facilitated through BAPIO (the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) as the language needs are specific for different parts of the country.

Membership events

Call the medical registrar – 8 July 2021 (or catch up on-demand)

Get ready to step into the role of medical registrar with talks on how to safely manage the acute medical take, top tips for managing night shifts and the importance of wellbeing, as well as specialty sessions focusing on issues you're likely to encounter in the acute setting. This conference is free to RCP members and £45 for non-members. 6 CPD points.