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The human touch | science in action

In her January blog, Dr Hilary Williams, RCP vice president for Wales, celebrates the work ‘bestie’ and shines a spotlight on academic and clinical research.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for our NHS workforce in Wales. Our trainee colleagues made the very difficult decision to go on strike last week; I and many of my consultant, specialty and specialist colleagues stepped in to help with the workload, but I think we can all agree that nobody takes industrial action lightly. It is a last resort, which means it’s time for some innovative solutions. After all, we need to value all our health and social care staff.

Safe staffing

I was lucky to have a decent break over the festive period, but it was still a shock to the system to find myself in my 8:30am multidisciplinary team meeting on 2 January. The list was long, but each patient deserved a considered discussion and so that’s what happened. Seeing the team in person – the commitment from our coordinator, nurses, pathology team, radiologist, and surgeons to get a plan in place for every patient – reminded me of the importance of teamwork. Not only is it more fun, but it’s also safer.

Workforce retention is key – that much is obvious. Last July, we joined with almost 30 other royal colleges and professional bodies to publish The people who care, setting out our ideas to improve recruitment and retention in Wales. Earlier this month, I met with the Welsh health minister, Eluned Morgan, and asked her to commit to a doctor retention strategy. She was very positive about the suggestion – so do get in touch with your ideas!

However, strategies are only as effective as their implementation, so how can we ensure that we turn good policy on retention into practice? One size certainly doesn’t fit all and I’m keen to hear what you think: from the pain of rota gaps, to losing annual leave, to later career opportunities…It made me smile to read that we all need a ‘bestie’ at work. Why stick with one? I need someone for a confidential moan, someone to inspire me, definitely someone to make me laugh, and not forgetting someone to give me a much needed cwtsh occasionally.

Science in action

For me, the joy of medicine is in turning science into action. I remember all too well the rapid and devastating impact that patients experienced when diagnosed with malignant melanoma a few years ago, when there were no effective treatments; now people are living for years. New drugs in cystic fibrosis are life changing. The incredible roll out of the RECOVERY trial across the UK has put medical science firmly back on the agenda.

After all, clinical research is critical to improving patient outcomes. This is desperately needed in Wales as we work to improve health outcomes for a population that is often older, living rurally and living with multiple chronic conditions. Funding research will lead to a generation of high-quality jobs and drive wider investment in the Welsh economy. 

With my blog this year, I’d like to shine a light on the varied and brilliant ways in which members of the RCP team in Wales have built their careers. This month, we’ve placed a spotlight on our clinical academic colleagues – Justyna, Magda and Sacha. Read more about their journeys here.

And finally …

Finally, a quick reminder that it’s never too early to get the date in your diary for our 2024 Update in medicine in Cardiff on 5 December – an ideal opportunity to learn more about best practice in Wales. Plus the RCP’s flagship conference, Medicine 2024, is only a few weeks away – with sessions in London and online.

So, a very happy new year to you all – blwyddyn newydd dda i chi gyd. If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s this: never neglect your work bestie!

Dr Hilary Williams
RCP vice president for Wales
Consultant medical oncologist