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Retention of doctors | (almost) all change

In her monthly blog, Dr Olwen Williams considers how best to retain doctors in the Welsh NHS workforce, thanks colleagues at the Princess of Wales hospital for another successful Cyswllt visit and announces some changes to the RCP Cymru Wales regional adviser team.

Spring has arrived, but there’s still no sign of the swallows here in north Wales. The days are getting warmer, but the nights are cold, leading to some difficult gardening conditions. However, I’m relieved to say that the unsociable hours of the lambing season are finally over!

As I enter the final few weeks of my vice presidency, I’ve been reflecting a great deal, as you can imagine. I took up post a couple of months before the first lockdown was announced. Working through the pandemic has been a steep learning curve for all of us, and many doctors and other health professionals have found themselves re-evaluating what’s important to them, how to be happy and where to find joy. We went into COVID-19 facing a workforce crisis – and the past 3 years has done very little to improve the situation.

We’ve now been asked by the Welsh government (along with colleagues at other royal colleges) to consider how best to attract and retain doctors in Wales, and what’s being done successfully elsewhere to keep doctors in the NHS workforce? Conversations about pay and contracts are being led by the British Medical Association of course, but this conversation is about the wider benefits. Do you have a case study you could share? What is your team doing to attract and retain colleagues locally? Can we showcase your innovative work with the Welsh government? Do please send your ideas and examples to Lowri.Jackson@rcp.ac.uk so that we can share best practice far and wide.

On a related note, the Senedd Finance Committee is asking for the input of health professionals on Welsh government spending plans. In June 2023, they are holding a series of focus groups, asking ‘what do you want Welsh government to focus spending on?’ Please complete this survey today (Friday 26 May) for a chance to take part in the focus groups.

During my time as vice president, one of the most enjoyable aspects has been our Cyswllt RCP Connect hospital visits. I have visited almost all the health boards and trusts in Wales, either in person or virtually during the pandemic. The visits give us an opportunity to celebrate and showcase innovation and learning. They also give us the chance to take a ‘temperature check’ among members – how is the mood locally? How is workforce wellbeing? What are the challenges and constraints faced by our members and fellows? Our meetings have had a powerful impact and latterly, we have been invited to join Health Education and Improvement Wales quality visits for the medical specialties. 

Earlier this month we received a warm welcome from the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend. We heard about work led by consultants: Drs John Hounsell, Madhu Kannan and Aaron Wong, and trainees: Drs Keiron Morgan, Ben Pryke and Daniah Thomas to develop the Life@Work project. We’ll be writing up the day to share with you all, and I will be following this work with interest. A huge thank you to all who presented and contributed feedback to our team.

I quickly want to mention a new NHS research and development (R&D) framework that’s been developed by Health and Care Research Wales, working with a wide range of stakeholders to identify key themes for ‘research excellence’. The draft framework is open to consultation until 1 June 2023. I’d urge you all to take a look and respond with your thoughts.

And now to some RCP news! I am thrilled to announce that Dr Andrew Lansdown has been appointed as regional adviser for South Wales central, taking over from Dr Hilary Williams when she becomes the new vice president for Wales on 1 July 2023. Andrew has been part of the RCP Wales team since 2012 when he became an RCP associate college tutor at University Hospital Wales (UHW). In 2017 he was appointed new consultant representative for south Wales and in 2020 he became RCP college tutor for UHW and later the lead college tutor for Wales. I would like to thank the other three excellent candidates who put themselves forward for the role.

I am very proud that the RCP in Wales has such active members who want to drive forward our work – and on that note, you can read a new blog from Hilary about why she became a regional adviser in the first place. In fact, there are RCP college tutor vacancies at UHW and Withybush Hospital at the moment, and if you are a consultant or SAS doctor interested in medical education and supporting trainees, please email Wales@rcp.ac.uk for more information. Becoming a college tutor is a great way to kick off your career with the RCP, and can lead to all sorts of exciting opportunities, so please do consider getting involved.

Dr Olwen Williams OBE
RCP vice president for Wales
Consultant in sexual health and HIV medicine