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How COVID-19 has led to new and increased support for members

 This article is one of a short series looking at how the RCP has worked with, for and on behalf of its fellows and members during the pandemic.

The challenges of the pandemic have meant the RCP has had to rethink the traditional ways in which it supports and engages with members and fellows. Happily, this has led to increased support and more regular engagement, often with members who were previously hard to reach.

Across UK regional networks, local new consultants’ forums were moved online, reaching a much wider audience. The monthly forums are organised by new consultant committee regional representatives and have covered topics such as ‘Complaints and coroners – what you actually need to know!’ and ‘Human factors in healthcare’. To date the forums have been viewed over 1,100 times with both live audiences and others catching up on demand.

Regular virtual fora for the College Tutors and Associate College Tutors have resulted in greater engagement across networks, forming a supportive response to recovering training during the pandemic. There has been a positive result in ARCP outcomes and continuing high recruitment into physicianly specialty posts. The annual CT and ACT conference converted to virtual successfully in 2020, with positive feedback from all and an opportunity for the trainees working as ACTs to showcase their work.

To increase support for trainees, the first virtual ‘Call the Med Reg’ conference was held in July 2021, aimed at preparing IMT3 and ST3 trainees for the transition into the medical registrar role. Topics included how to manage the acute medical take safely, when to call the consultant and the importance of registrar wellbeing, as well as focusing on specialty top-tips in the acute setting. More than 600 trainees have viewed the conference so far.

Further support for trainees this year has come through a programme of 14 regional virtual poster competitions. Open to trainees at all levels as well as physician associates and physician associate students, the success of the scheme was overwhelming with more than 500 entries across all regions and nations. Organised with the medical student and foundation doctor network, the RCP’s first Specialty Careers Showcase is due to be held on 7 October 2021. It will highlight the many opportunities available in physicianly medicine.

Through the RCP’s global networks, relationships with international advisers have been strengthened, with quarterly events held for them across each of the college’s global regions (Americas, Asia Pacific, Middle East & North Africa, South Asia & Sub-Saharan Africa) since September 2020. These have provided a great opportunity to engage with and support international advisers and the RCP’s international membership. 

The first global member network was created in Iraq and its inaugural meeting held on 19 February. It was attended by 56 members and fellows from Iraq, representing a third of the country’s membership and ranged from medical students and junior doctors to consultants and senior fellows. Since the launch of the RCP Iraq network, there has been an eight-fold increase in RCP membership in the country in just 6 months: a great marker of success.

Some international members and fellows have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic. The monthly RCP Global Newsletter has provided support to international members by signposting global activities, information and events during COVID-19 surges. Best practice guidance around COVID management, links to wider support and wellbeing support, was curated for members in India and Sri Lanka.

To support shared learning through the pandemic, the RCP launched its ‘Global Stories’  webinar series. The series has featured topics such as the impact of the explosion in Beirut in November 2020 on local healthcare provision and the provision of palliative care services in low- and middle-income countries. It has featured members and fellows sharing their local experiences of COVID-19, how it has been managed in their country/region and the wider cultural and societal impact on their communities.