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My reflections | A word from the VP for education and training

In this August senior officer blog feature, the new incoming senior censor and vice president for education and training, Dr Mumtaz Patel, reflects on the current challenges and priorities for education and training and her previous term as the RCP’s global vice president.

I took up the role of senior censor and vice president for education and training this week and am very aware of what challenging times we find ourselves in. The current climate of poor morale, difficult working environments and workforce challenges are clearly reflected in the recent GMC national training survey results. The overall workload, conflicting demands, balance between service and training have worsened over recent years and more needs to be done to redress the balance.

In my new role I plan to work closely with our members and fellows to ensure that the RCP education offer meets the needs of the changing workforce and challenging climate. I will support trainees through their committees and be a strong advocate for our membership through my cross-organisational roles. With the recent merger of HEE with NHSE, I want to forge stronger links between the RCP and NHSE when it comes to education. With my links with Federation and other key stakeholders, I will work closely with the devolved nations to have a unified four-nation approach to support our trainees and entire membership.

Improving wellbeing and morale is not just about initiatives for the individual. We have learnt a lot from the COVID-19 era, that these targeted interventions need to be coupled with organisational interventions such as changing work schedules, increasing flexibility, enhancing team-working, reducing the administrative burden and optimising the use of technology to have the most impact on physician wellbeing. We need to ensure our doctors and staff are well supported with shared responsibility between the profession, systems and wider society to empower individuals to recognise their own limitations, as well as their wellbeing and support needs. I have written previously that this is what is needed for a sustainable workforce. 

We need to support the whole workforce including our international medical graduates, SAS doctors and physician associates. The we way we work is changing, and we need to adapt to support the changing workforce. Working with the wider membership I want to ensure the RCP education and training offer is mapped to their needs.

Inclusivity and promoting diversity must be integral to all we do. I lead nationally on research on differential attainment and fairness in education and our research is driving changes in practice and policy. This is collaborative research across organisations and specialties, with a focus on earlier interventions and support to improve educational outcomes and trainee experience. We have produced a stepwise strategic approach to address differential attainment with a range of interventions. These have been recently evaluated and demonstrate improving outcomes and educational experience. A lot more work needs to be done but it feels like a step in the right direction.

I started as global vice president at the height of COVID-19 in September 2020, and despite the initial challenges, am proud of the great strides in the RCP’s global work. We developed and launched the global strategy in January 2021, and are on track to achieve the strategic objectives we set out. Membership has grown (from 18% to 21%, with 26% international fellows), as has diversity (female membership grew from 19 to 24%, with a 3-fold increase in international female advisers), our networks grew stronger and we have seen wider engagement with conferences/CME events and the growth of our Medical Training Initiative (MTI) scheme.

We successfully launched and have delivered the Global Women Leaders programme which aims to address the gender leadership gap globally. This is based on developing individual and organisational leadership with longitudinal mentoring support from trained champions. The programme promotes system change by working with key stakeholders to empower women to advance into senior leadership positions. The programme began in Pakistan and we have recently now launched in Jordan and Iraq.

I believe enablement through strong leadership, education, building stronger networks, and working with the wider multi-professional teams will help towards achieving our shared goals. Having an inclusive, compassionate leadership approach and modelling positive behaviours is crucial.

These are difficult times, but I am hopeful we can drive a positive change with everyone’s support and a collective effort. I will work hard to support our membership at each stage of their careers and work collaboratively with stakeholders to improve the educational offer, provide wider support and progression opportunities, to meet the changing demands of our profession.

Please feel free to contact me at any time on any areas where you feel we can make a positive difference.