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Yma o hyd | global community | new beginnings

In this month’s blog, Dr Olwen Williams looks back at the memories of our sold-out 2022 Wales Update in medicine. She also highlights the importance of looking after your mental health during winter pressures and opens the call for nominations for her successor as RCP vice president for Wales.

Sometimes we need something to distract us, to give us hope and entertain us in dark times – so hopefully the FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar will raise people’s spirits. Despite the disappointment of the result against Iran last week (and at the time of writing, we do not know the result of the match against England) the achievement of Cymru in reaching the tournament for the first time in 64 years is still something to be celebrated!

November also saw Wales’ second official HIV testing week, launched to tackle stigma and get people of all ages and backgrounds to regularly test. The event was developed by HIV activists from Fast Track Cardiff and Vale. The postal testing service offers testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. If we are to eliminate new cases of HIV and blood borne viruses by 2030, everyone should have equitable access to tests.

I was overjoyed to welcome more than 200 delegates to a sold-out RCP Update in medicine in Cardiff this year. Our first in-person conference since 2019 was a feast of information and inspiration, with the Bradshaw lecture delivered this year by Professor Awen Gallimore on cancer immunotherapy. Once again, I’d like to thank all the speakers, organisers and delegates for making the day such a wonderful success. You can follow the conversations on Twitter at @RCPWales or using the hashtag #RCPUpdate. I like to think that opening my final conference as vice president in a Welsh football bucket hat provided everyone with a memorable sight! 

The day before our Update, it was incredibly moving to host the second ever new fellow and member ceremony to be held outside of London. Delegates from Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, India, England and, of course, Wales saw 16 MRCP(UK) diplomates and 27 new fellows welcomed into a truly global community. Performers Nathaniel Alcolado and Alex Sweet provided the musical entertainment while guests enjoyed an evening reception with networking and celebration. Special guest Dr Helen Lane FRCP, consultant physician at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, read from her moving poetry collection, Reflections through the waves: poems of the pandemic. It was a fabulous experience, combining the pomp and circumstance of a London ceremony with the warmth and community of a Welsh event, and I was very proud to welcome all of you to the RCP family.

I recently had the great pleasure of being one of the judges for the RCP Cymru Wales poster competition 2022. The winner was Dr Jenny Coventry (‘A multi-cycle quality improvement project to improve the proportion of DNAR forms discussed with the patients' next of kin’) and highly commended was Dr Anna Hesseling (‘Has the COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on the incidence and severity of anorexia nervosa referrals in young people?’). We plan to showcase the hard work of our doctors in training as much as possible in our reports and briefings over the next few months.

Moving on now, and I wanted to flag a recent letter to the system signed by all four chief medical officers, which thanked doctors for their ‘continued professionalism and hard work’ and warned of ‘sustained additional demand [which is] likely to be exacerbated by staff shortages’ over the coming winter, while reassuring people that ‘in the unlikely event that you are referred to your professional regulator, they will consider the context you were working in at the time, including all relevant resources, guidelines or protocols.’ This unusual intervention is indicative of widespread concerns about the pressures that will face the NHS this winter. We all need to look out for each other – after all, it’s okay not to be okay – all our health boards should have staff wellbeing support in place and NHS staff can also access free and confidential mental health support.

The RCP is acutely aware of the challenges faced by our members and fellows. The 2022 census of consultant physicians and SAS doctors asks you about your workload and wellbeing, and we can use these results to make the case for change with the Welsh government, so please do fill it in.

Our guest blog this week is by Dr Inderpal Singh, consultant geriatrician at the Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr hospital in south-east Wales, responsible for the Caerphilly falls and bone health service. As the national clinical lead for falls and frailty, he shares his vision for improving bone health through closer working between the Welsh government, health boards and the third sector.

Finally, this is my last Christmas in post. I will be stepping down in the spring after three very busy years as vice president for Wales. I cannot recommend the experience highly enough: over the past decade, your RCP Cymru Wales team has strengthened the voice of physicians and our colleagues. We are a leading, trusted voice in the Welsh media, and a key stakeholder for politicians and NHS leaders. Nominations have now opened for my successor, so if you would like to find out more about a role that is often challenging, sometimes daunting, but always rewarding and interesting, please feel free to contact me for an informal chat.

Stay safe.

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