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RCP vice president for Wales: Falling leaves, new beginnings

As winter approaches, Dr Olwen Williams reflects on the start of a new academic year, compassionate leadership and her new video podcast series with political leaders in Wales.

For me, September is a month of change. It’s the end of summer – as the nights draw in and the first leaves begin to drop, it’s time to plant sunny yellow daffodil bulbs. There are new beginnings for many with the start of the new academic year: we welcome our new cohort of medical students and we supervise the changeover of higher training posts. For others, there is the dread associated with winter challenges and the worry of the perfect storm of emergency pressures, COVID-19 and influenza at a time when our batteries are at their lowest.

During the recent virtual RCP Player webinar, Adapting to life after COVID-19, we heard a sobering account of how four physicians had ridden the pandemic. Through coping with personal tragedy and loss, they found an inner strength they didn’t realise they had. It changed how they see their future. Their stories were truly humbling. I’ve reflected since on how we can move forward as the pandemic relentlessly impacts our ability to recover – both as a health service and as individuals. We must collectively embrace the concept of compassionate leadership and be kind to each other, this will enable everyone to flourish in these difficult times and encourage others to join our profession.

You may have noticed that the RCP has been running regular COVID-19 workforce impact surveys over the past 18 months. The latest survey is out today. I urge you to fill it in – the results help us to highlight your concerns to politicians and influence government decisions. 

At our quarterly Welsh Academy of Royal Colleges meeting I was delighted to hear from Professor Tom Lawson, Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) postgraduate dean, about the upcoming expansion in medical student places and a significant increase in F1 posts which – hopefully along with our recruitment of international medical graduates – will go some way to ‘growing’ the consultant and GP workforce for Wales. My ask is that we support this growth by ensuring we provide an excellent training experience during clinical placements.

Our trainees have been very proactive recently. Dr Shreya Gupta, an internal medicine trainee at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, is looking at how COVID-19 has impacted training and the virtual teaching experience in Wales. She is supported by Dr Tom Cozens, training programme director for acute medicine, I really do urge you to complete their survey.

I hope you enjoyed the first of my ‘In conversation with…’ series of video podcasts with Heléna Herklots CBE, older people's commissioner for Wales. With these interviews, I aim to give an insight into the thinking of those who influence the way Wales is run. With Heléna, I explored the potential for a seamless health and social care system. Watch out for my next interview, this time with Sophie Howe, the future generations commissioner for Wales, where we discuss the links between social determinants of health and our carbon footprint.

Launch of the census of consultant physicians

On 6 October we will launch the 2021–22 UK census of consultant and SAS physicians. The data we collect help us to influence the Welsh government, support workforce planning and contribute to health policy, all of which are more important than ever as the NHS recovers from the pandemic. Keep an eye on your email for access to your personalised form.

Are your trainees involved with virtual clinics? 

A new Wales-based, trainee-led QI project on internal medicine (IMT) outpatient clinic experience found multiple barriers to attendance, as well as the limited use of virtual clinics. Three of our trainees, Dr Charlie Finlow, Dr Rosie Hattersley and Dr Melanie Nana have now developed a clinic guide full of tips and tricks. Their aim is to increase awareness of the IMT curriculum, Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) requirements, key resources and to support skills development. To submit feedback, please email charlie.finlow@wales.nhs.net. To download the guide, visit The Core website.

British Red Cross hospital discharge project

The British Red Cross is researching the Discharge to Recover then Assess model and how it has been implemented across Wales. If you would like to talk to them about your perspective on hospital discharge, as a doctor or physician associate, please consider joining one of their anonymous virtual focus groups: contact angharad.davies@ors.org.uk

Green Health Wales

Green Health Wales is a network of healthcare professionals in clinical, non-clinical, administrative, support and managerial roles across Wales who recognise that the climate emergency is a health emergency. For more information about what they do, visit their website or contact info@greenhealthwales.co.uk.

A week of learning from the Bevan Commission 

The Bevan Commission has partnered with the All-Wales Intensive Learning Academy to offer an Intensive Learning Week for health and care professionals. The programme will support health and care professionals to influence change and make an impact in their workplace by focusing on how to innovate and transform health and care. Scholarships are available to those based in Wales and the week runs from 29 November–3 December.

Finally, I recently had the pleasure of a catch up with Dr Simon Barry, a respiratory consultant in Cardiff and Wales' lead for respiratory medicine. He talked me through the latest developments on long COVID and the approach taken by the Welsh government so far.

Remember – as the leaves fall, the buds of spring will appear.

Stay safe.