Bulletin January 2021 Number 193

Hello and welcome to the January 2021 Bulletin. This is my first Editorial as president and it is a great honour to be able to speak to you directly. The Bulletin is a great way to highlight the diversity, professionalism and achievements of you all, our fantastic pathology workforce.


When celebrating our workforce, the first thing I would like to do is thank Professor Jo Martin for her excellent tenure as president. Jo’s presidency was especially marked by our move to a great new building and then by COVID, the pandemic that has affected us all. I hope that the end of the pandemic is now in sight.

Jo expertly steered the College through these stresses and we are in a good place thanks to her. I would also like to thank the previous Vice Presidents, Rachael Liebmann, Shelley Heard and Tim Littlewood, who have helped Jo achieve this and who have worked exhaustively for the College and us, its members.

I would also like to recognise the contributions of our many members who have been, and continue to be, involved in College activities. Your time and expertise support the College, members and healthcare as a whole. The College and the profession could not function without you.


The new year has brought the sad news that our past President, Professor Sir Peter Lachmann, died on Boxing Day.

Professor Lachmann was an eminent immunologist who made numerous significant contributions to healthcare and medicine, and played a major role in the College, including serving a term of office as President. We have sent our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

Earlier this month we heard the sad news that Professor Donal O’Donoghue, registrar for the Royal College of Physicians, and an eminent renal physician who worked tirelessly to improve healthcare and renal services, had died. We have extended our sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues.

In our April Bulletin we will carry a full appreciation of Professor Lachmann’s life, and our registrar, Dr Lance Sandle, will contribute a personal reminiscence and tribute to Professor O’Donoghue.

The future

I am now looking forward to working with my fantastic new Vice Presidents, Angharad Davies, Sarah Coupland and Peter Johnston, together with the many members actively supporting so many essential College activities.

As a profession, we can be forgotten and ignored, eclipsed by what some perceive as more glamorous and news-grabbing specialties. At the College we are working hard to overcome this and to signpost the achievements of our members.

In November, we announced the RCPath Achievement Awards 2020. Open to teams and individuals from all pathology backgrounds and disciplines, the awards highlighted the huge range of fantastic achievements by our members and their colleagues in allied professions.

Some were individual achievements, others were awarded to teams and groups, but all demonstrated a fantastic contribution to pathology in all its forms – be that through teaching, research or service provision.

The winners are truly inspirational and an example to us all, and to those outside pathology, of the huge contribution you make to healthcare in this country and beyond. Well done to everyone who entered the competition and to all the winners.


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rule our lives at home and at work, and it would be wrong for me not to mention it. We should congratulate ourselves for all the work we have done in combating this terrible outbreak, which has touched all parts of the world. Every one of you has contributed in some way, whether directly by involvement in testing for COVID-19, through redeployment into other areas needing help or by picking up the extra workload associated with the healthcare backlog – a particular legacy of the lockdowns.

At the forefront

A special mention should, however, go to our virology and immunology colleagues who have really been at the forefront of the outbreak – developing, overseeing and running the testing services, managing treatment of affected patients and, most spectacularly perhaps, helping develop the vaccines that now provide us with some hope that this terrible episode will end.

The College fully supports the vaccination programme and has signed up to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ statement. From a College perspective, we have been working hard to champion your views and needs as they relate to COVID-19 and the pandemic. For example, following input from members, the College has issued a statement on Lateral Flow Testing for COVID-19, which has been supported by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

Furthermore, I have been representing the College every week in discussions with Public Health England, policy makers and other stakeholders relating to COVID-19, and the associated testing and vaccination programme.

I have given a variety of interviews to the press, for example the Financial Times, and was involved in a roundtable discussion event held by the Health Service Journal. The College has recently contributed to several pieces of national guidance and advice, for example for NICE, relating to topics such as long COVID and other aspects of the pandemic.

COVID Advisory Group

To ensure the views of the College and our members are heard, we have set up a COVID Advisory Group, made up largely of virologists, but including other specialties such as immunology, haematology, microbiology and histopathology. The group’s aim is to help the College provide accurate and timely input into the many COVID-related documents we are asked to contribute to and to highlight issues that matter to you, to policy makers and those overseeing the response to the pandemic.

We await the outcome of the largest randomised trials, to date, of convalescent plasma (REMAPCAP and RECOVERY), with exceptional leadership and contribution from our members. Through these remarkable projects we are able to show that large, well-conducted trials are feasible and can address important therapeutic questions during a pandemic.

A special mention to ...

Finally, no celebration of our workforce touching on COVID would be complete without congratulating our member, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, and a well-known face in the news and on our televisions, for all his hard work trying to keep us and the nation safe. Thank you, Jonathan, the College is very proud of you.

A welcoming College

While many people are already involved in the College, others may be somewhat more reticent about becoming involved, believing the College is a clique and not for them, that their involvement will not be welcomed or that their views and opinions will not be listened to. We will be working very hard to overcome any such misconceptions.

It is your College and we want to make it as inclusive as possible so that every member feels their views are listened to, their needs taken seriously and that they can and should contribute by becoming more involved in College activities.

To help with this aim and to try and increase diversity in all areas of the College so that we better represent our members, we have set up the College Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group. For more on this, see the article by the group’s Chair, Dr Esther Youd.

Changes to College ordinances

As you are aware, at the AGM in November, we passed a variety of changes to our ordinances. There are two very significant changes that we hope will help you feel more represented by the College whatever your specialty.

The first of these is that the Presidency of the College should rotate between candidates working in different specialties (i.e. precluding a candidate practising in the same specialty as an incumbent President from standing for election). This should ensure regular opportunities for representation in the office of President across the whole membership.

The second is that, under the current ordinances, Diplomates have no voting rights. Certain updates have now been passed to allow Diplomates to participate in the election of Honorary Officers, General Council Members and, to the extent a Diplomate resides within England, the English Regional Representatives on the Council. This proposal will permit the future Fellows of the College to become involved in governance at an earlier stage in their careers, recognising their importance to the future work of the College.

These two changes were passed at the AGM but we need to wait until the Privy Council, who oversee the College ordinances as we have a Royal Charter, to sign off on these changes. This is likely to be in the early spring.


Despite the continuing excellent work of our pathology workforce, and our colleagues in allied professions, there are clearly significant staffing issues in many areas of pathology. We are working hard to represent your views and needs in this fundamental area.

Getting the message across

Essentially our message is this: pathology underpins almost every healthcare interaction; without pathology, you cannot have healthcare. It’s a simple message that we highlight at every opportunity to policy makers and other stakeholders so that we in pathology are not forgotten.

As President, I have contributed to a variety of national reviews and documents, alongside attending meetings where I have highlighted the need for adequate staffing and investment in pathology going forward. These have included the January 2021 NICE impact report on diagnostic pathology, and a commentary that considers the NICE report and identifies the challenges and barriers there may be to the implementation of NICE guidance.

In December, I took part in a New Statesman roundtable discussion on the future of genomics, during which I explained the huge potential of the field to provide diagnostic and prognostic information, and to allow personalised targeted care and therapy for patients.

I emphasised that this was dependent on sufficient pathology input, support and funding. I have also raised these issues in press interviews, for example with the Health Service Journal and Health Europe Quarterly.

Recognising transfusion medicine

I would like to finish this first editorial by highlighting some further great work by one group of our membership. Around two million units of blood and components are transfused in hospitals across the country each year. I, for one, am quietly reassured to know that if I need it, there will be the right blood, in the right place, at the right time for me, and I applaud the UK blood services for their collective efforts towards this achievement.

To maintain and develop their excellent work and vital role in healthcare, the National Blood Transfusion Committee and NHS Blood and Transplant in England have published Transfusion 2024 – A Five-year Plan for Clinical and Laboratory Transfusion. The plan outlines key priorities, with an emphasis on a skilled and trained workforce, and better use of data, technology and integration while promoting a safer culture in accordance with the NHS Patient Safety Strategy. This document is just one of the many great examples of members of our College working together to improve healthcare.

End in sight

COVID is still with us, but the end is in sight, we hope, thanks in no small part to our members. As we move forward, the College will continue to champion your needs, lobby for support for pathology and the pathology workforce with governments, and represent your views. I hope you enjoy this edition of the Bulletin. Thank you for supporting the College.

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