As you will be aware, an election for the next president was held in October and Professor Jo Martin was elected. Jo is Professor of Pathology at Queen Mary University of London and honorary consultant at Barts Health NHS Trust. She was formerly National Clinical Director for Pathology at NHS England and has many years’ experience of medical management and leadership. Jo officially became President-elect and an Officer of the College at the AGM in November 2016 and will take up office as President at the AGM in November 2017. I look forward to working closely with her over the coming year. Jo will describe her vision for the College in a future issue of the Bulletin.
Since the last issue the BMA have officially called off the dispute with the government over the new contract and the contract has started to be introduced for some specialties. Many new trainees starting in April 2017 will be on the new contract, but those who already have contracts should remain on those until they are due to sign a new one. In September I circulated a survey to all trainees, the results of which are reported in this issue of The Bulletin. I have written to the Secretary of State, BMA, NHS Employers and Academy Trainee Doctors Group with a summary of the survey, setting out my concerns about the way the contract will disadvantage pathology trainees in particular. This first survey was largely concerned with issues outside the College’s control, such as the contract. A second survey, developed by the Trainees’ Advisory Committee, has recently been circulated and looks at things that the College might be able to change or influence to improve the training experience. The results will be reported in the April issue.
In November Cancer Research UK published, ‘Testing Times to Come?: An evaluation of pathology capacity across the UK’, a report about pathology provision, particularly in relation to cancer diagnosis and treatment. It described services as being at ‘tipping point’ and requiring investment in workforce, training and technology. I wrote a response in which I welcomed the focus on the vital role of pathology and the importance of training and adequate staffing. I made several pledges that the College will deliver and called on other organisations, including the government and Health Education England, to play their part. The CRUK report and my response are published on the website www.rcpath.org/discover-pathology/news/rcpath-response-to-testing-times-to-come-report.html if you would like to learn more.
The last few months have been busy ones for political engagement with meetings with Lord Prior, the minister with responsibility for pathology at the time and the Labour Shadow Health Team. Lord Prior has since been moved to energy, so I look forward to briefing Lord O’Shaughnessy, who has replaced him at health, in the New Year. I also have meetings with David Mowat MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Community Health and Care, and Jo Churchill MP in the diary to discuss pathology and try to increase recognition of the important role the specialty can play in government initiatives such as improving patient safety and earlier cancer diagnosis. In November Baroness Kennedy hosted the launch of updated guidelines for the investigation of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) at the House of Lords on behalf of the College. I am grateful to the multi-agency working group for the work they put into the new guidelines, which will be of practical use to all involved in the investigation of child deaths. I have also attended several All Party Parliamentary Group events, including the launch of reports on long-term conditions and antimicrobial resistance.
I have been pleased to chair two meetings between the Pathology Alliance and the NHS Improvement (NHSI) team to discuss productivity and NHS England’s push towards consolidation of pathology services. The meetings were challenging but constructive and I hope have helped strengthen relationships, which will enable collaborative working over the coming year. The April issue of the Bulletin will focus on fellows’ experience of consolidation, particularly lessons learnt and tips for others undergoing similar reconfiguration. I anticipate that this will elicit much discussion and hope that there will be further coverage in subsequent issues. I understand that NHSI plan to establish a Pathology Steering Group in the New Year and expect to be invited to join to represent the views of the College’s members. I am grateful to the members who have already shared their experiences of service reconfiguration with me and welcome all views.
November marked an historic occasion for the College when Council and the AGM were held outside London for the first time. Council travelled to Newcastle for an excellent meeting, kindly hosted by Council members Professor Kate Gould and Professor Graham Jackson at the Freeman Hospital. As it was also National Pathology Week, a series of events were held in the North East, including sell-out events in the cathedral and castle, school talks and an excellent interactive multi-disciplinary careers day for medical students. Many thanks to the members who attended and organised the events for making us feel so welcome. We would be very pleased to hold future meetings outside London, particularly while we haven’t got a permanent home. If anyone would like to host a meeting in their trust or university please let me know. National Pathology Week Many congratulations to everyone who helped make NPW 2016 another great success. Over 200 events took place around the country, with the usual wide range of events from lab open days and foyer displays to school visits and careers talks. You can read about some of them in the public engagement section. Plans are already underway for NPW 2017. Congratulations to Paul Wen, who won this year’s undergraduate essay prize. I was particularly pleased that this year’s competition was open to veterinary and science students as well as medical students, and that many high quality entries were received. Many thanks to the judging panel who had a lot of reading to do!
Clinical Excellence Awards
Although no official announcement has been made at the time of writing and no dates are yet available we expect there to be a round of Clinical Excellence Awards this year. The successful applicants from last year’s round have recently been announced and I was delighted to see that many of those whom the College supported were successful. Many congratulations to everyone who renewed their award or received a new one. For those who weren’t successful last year, please do submit an application again this year. We would be very pleased to support your application and the more often you apply the more likely you are to succeed. Information about how to request College support is on the website. The deadlines for applications will be added as soon as ACCEA announce the timetable for this year. The schedule is usually very tight so you are advised to make a start on your application now and ask someone to draft a citation on your behalf so that they’re ready to go when the dates are announced.
I appreciate that much of the College’s work focuses on what’s going on in England but the other countries of the UK are not neglected. Recent discussion with Northern Ireland MPs, for example, resulted in questions being asked in the House of Commons about the government’s response to the CRUK document, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland. The chairs of the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Regional Councils attend College Council and Trustee Board to ensure that members’ views are shared, wherever they live. I am looking forward to visits to Belfast, Cardiff and Glasgow over the coming months and hope to see many of you. I will also be speaking at the Pathological Society, FiLM and Focus meetings over the next few months; do come and say hello if you’re attending.
We continue to develop the England Regional Council and have appointed several new Regional Advisors. A further tier of College contacts, Local Regional Representatives (LRCs), will be introduced in the coming months. They will have a similar role to the old College Tutors, who were disbanded several years ago when much of their role was taken over by Programme Training Directors. LRCs will give members an opportunity to get involved in the College at a local level, with minimal time commitment. I hope that they will help strengthen two-way communication between the central College and members and that you will think about applying when the posts are advertised.
You will have recently received notification of the subscription rates for 2017, which unfortunately have had to be increased by 2%. The Trustee Board and Senior Management Team worked very hard to keep subscriptions as low as possible, with several work streams being modified, delayed or cut completely. I am aware that members’ salaries have increased very little, if at all, over the last few years. Unfortunately the College’s expenses have increased significantly as train fares, accommodation costs, office rent, venue hire, National Insurance contributions and pension contributions for the College’s staff have all risen significantly. I’m sure you’re aware that College subscriptions can be offset against tax and that there is a reduced subscription for those on lower incomes. Thank you for your continued support of the College and the work that it does. If you’re interested in learning more, the Annual Review of Activity is on the website and gives more detail about the work funded by your subscriptions.
Much to celebrate
You may remember from a previous Bulletin column that the College’s International Team and partners including the British Division of the International Academy of Pathology (BDIAP) and the College of Pathology of East, Central and Southern Africa (COPECSA) had been nominated for a prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) Award for their work on the LabSkills Africa project. The award was for International Collaboration and we were up against tough competition. I am delighted to announce that the College won. Many congratulations to all involved. I was very pleased to see that Dr Alice Wort, trainee microbiologist in Newcastle and Chair of the College’s Trainees Advisory Committee, has been recognised by The Pathologist publication as one of the rising stars of pathology. Alice was nominated for her valuable contribution to the work of the College as well as her public engagement activities and careers events to attract others into the specialty. It is always good to see members of the College recognised for the work that they do, and it was great to see several College fellows on this year’s New Year’s Honours list. I’d particularly like to congratulate Dr Lorna Williamson, Director of Publishing and Engagement, on her well-deserved OBE for services to the advancement of blood, tissue and stem cell donations. Also Professor Ghulam Mufti, Professor of Haemato-oncology at King’s College London who received an OBE for services to haematological medicine and Professor Andrew George, Chair of Hammersmith Hospital Research Ethics Committee, who received an MBE for services to research participants and the ethical governance of clinical research. I hope you all have a happy and successful 2017 and look forward to representing you in my last year as President.