Bulletin July 2017 Number 179

In this issue we continue the theme of consolidation in pathology services, make a visit to the Pathology Alliance in Canada, hold the Annual Dinner and prepare for the College elections.

I hope you found the consolidation theme in the last issue of The Bulletin interesting. The theme continues in this issue with another varied series of reports. There has been so much interest and so many contributions to this section that there hasn’t been space to fit everything in. The conversation will therefore continue on the website, where all the relevant documents about consolidation can be found, along with the April and July Bulletin articles and further comments from members.

NHS Improvement has set up a National Pathology Optimisation Delivery Group, chaired by Professor Adrian Newland. The College is represented, as are several Pathology Alliance organisations, Health Education England, NHS England and the Association of Independent Pathology Providers. The group’s role is to coordinate the implementation of the recommendations in Lord Carter’s recent report on productivity and efficiency, so the consolidation feature is very timely.

Getting it Right First Time (GIRFT) is an NHS Improvement initiative to improve the quality of patient care by reducing unwarranted variation. GIRFT involves collecting relevant data, feeding back to organisations, sharing best practice and monitoring performance. The scheme was first adopted in orthopaedics and, following that success, is being rolled out to a further 32 specialties, including pathology. The programme is clinically-led, with GIRFT Leads in each specialty leading the work. The pathology lead has yet to be appointed and will require a good understanding of the main pathology specialties; experience of data identification, collection and interpretation; and be able to engage clinicians across the country and support them to make changes. This is a lot to ask from one individual but the role can be split between two or more. Although this is an NHSI appointment, the College is involved in the appointment process and hopes to support the successful candidate when they are appointed. If you are interested in the role, or would like to find out more, please get in touch.

Regional visits

President-elect Professor Jo Martin and I have enjoyed recent visits to Belfast, Glasgow and Cardiff, attending Regional Council meetings and symposia open to all members. Jo and I have given updates on present and future College activity and answered members’ questions. In Belfast and Cardiff we had the opportunity to talk to trainees about their experiences and how the College can better support them. Although there are some common themes, there are some very specific challenges in each country so it’s very helpful to hear about them first-hand. Many thanks to the Regional Council chairs for organising such constructive meetings and to local members and trainees for their contributions.

Cost of training

An issue highlighted by the junior doctors’ contract dispute last year was the high cost of training and the variation in training costs between the different specialties. While no one is suggesting that trainees choose their specialty based on the cost of training, it is important that they know up front what costs they are committing to. The College has led the way in being transparent about the costs of training and has recently published a breakdown of how all fees paid by trainees, including those for exams, are spent. This information is on the website if you haven’t seen it. If you have, you’ll see that the cost of training is actually subsidised from general subscriptions, which fits with the College’s aim of advancing the practice of pathology. However, we realise that exams are expensive and the Exams and Training teams work hard to minimise the cost.

Some great recent news is that medical trainees’ exam fees are now tax deductible. You would think that this was an easy thing to achieve but it involved a huge amount of work submitting curricula and contracts for every single specialty to HMRC. I am grateful to the training team, particularly Tom Randall, for all their hard work to achieve this. The team is currently working with scientist and veterinary members to try to get the same allowance for them; this is dependent on appropriate contracts being provided so the help of the scientific and veterinary communities will be vital. For medical trainees, the cost of exams can be back-dated for four years, so please make sure you claim. The College has employed a temporary member of staff to deal with enquiries and provide the receipts you will need.

Political engagement

Our programme of political engagement was put on hold for several weeks in the run-up to the general election, although we did manage to have one last meeting with Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, then chair of the Health Select Committee, just before purdah began. The main topic discussed was the challenge of finding pathologists prepared to perform coronial post-mortems, something that is causing delays in some areas. A scheduled meeting with health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy was cancelled but has been rearranged for later this month.

I have recently attended several parliamentary meetings on research, improving cancer outcomes and breast cancer. I also spoke at a recent Westminster Health Forum debate about antimicrobial resistance.

The usual monthly Department of Health Medical Examiners Strategic Programme Board meetings were cancelled just before the election, with the next one scheduled for later this month. I hope that there will be an announcement about the response to last year’s public consultation and clarification about the implementation date at the next meeting.

Women in pathology and medicine

The year from May 2017 to April 2018 has been designated “Women in Medicine Year”. It marks the centenary of the Medical Women’s Federation and the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Royal College of Physicians. Each College will be highlighting the contribution that women have made to their specialty, with a multi-disciplinary exhibition, which will tour the Colleges. Over the next year we will also publish articles on the website about pioneering women in pathology, both historical and contemporary. Thank you to the members who nominated women.

“Women in Pathology” was the theme for the College’s annual dinner this year, with each table being named after a woman who made a significant contribution to the practice of pathology, either directly or indirectly. My speech included details of the women selected, including Rosalind Franklin, Mary Barber, Dorothy Hodgkin and Dorothy Stuart Russell. More information will be released during Women in Medicine Year. I was delighted that Jo Churchill MP, member of parliament for Bury St Edmunds, agreed to give the guest speech at the dinner. Jo chairs several All Party health groups and has recently been appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Health. Jo gave an excellent speech, recognising the vital role of pathology, particularly in cancer diagnosis.


Last month I had the pleasure of representing the UK at the International Liaison Committee of Pathology Presidents meeting in Prince Edward Island, Canada. This annual meeting, which includes the presidents of the main pathology societies from the UK, Ireland, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Africa is a great opportunity to find out how other countries deal with common challenges. There were helpful discussions about Choosing Wisely, quality assurance, dealing with allegations of poor performance, molecular pathology training and undergraduate engagement, to name just a few of the topics on the agenda.

I was also invited to contribute to a debate at the Canadian Association of Pathologists’ annual meeting about the role of biomedical scientists in specimen dissection and reporting. Despite the College and IBMS leading on this initiative, I was allocated to the opposing team, as was Professor Annie Cheung, president of the Hong Kong College of Pathologists. I stuck to my role during the debate but had the chance to explain the College’s true stance at the end. It was a very good-natured debate, with the Australian ‘for’ team taking a very light-hearted approach.

Pathology summer school

The fourth annual pathology summer school for medical undergraduates will take place in London in August. Sponsored by numerous pathology organisations, the weekend gives 80 students from all medical schools in the UK the opportunity to learn about the role of pathology in healthcare through interactive sessions, small breakout groups and lectures. Many trainees have volunteered to take part this year, which should make the sessions even more relevant and useful, particularly for students considering a career in pathology.

The first three summer schools were so successful that other countries are developing similar events. The first International Summer School, organised by the College and taking place in Egypt this month, marks the start of what I’m sure will be many international events. Following discussion at the ILPP meeting last month, representatives from the Canadian Association of Pathologists will be attending this year’s London school with a view to recreating the event in Canada next year.

College elections and appointments

Thank you to those who have put themselves forward for College officer roles. Everyone nominated will now go forward for election in a process run by Electoral Reform Services. Voting opens on 10 July and closes on 25 August. You should have received an email with all the details of how to vote. Please take the time to read each candidate’s personal statement before casting your vote. It is important that the officers come from a wide range of specialties so please think carefully before voting. As the next president is a histopathologist it is important that at least some of the other officers are from a different specialty. The more diverse the team of officers, the better equipped they are to represent the interests of the entire membership.

There will also be numerous committee chair and member roles becoming vacant from the AGM in November. Please look out for these being advertised and think about putting your name forward or nominating a colleague. The College relies on members volunteering for these roles and cannot function without you.

Honours and awards

It’s always nice to see Fellows’ hard work being recognised, and you can read about some examples in this issue of The Bulletin. I’d also like to congratulate Fellows recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year, including Professor Sir Alimuddin Zumla, who received a knighthood for services to public health and protection from infectious disease, and Professor Brenda Gibson, paediatric haematologist in Glasgow, who was awarded an OBE for services to child healthcare.

Professor Sir David Weatherall FRS was awarded Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire for Services to Medicine. Professor Weatherall is a leading global figure in molecular genetics, having worked for many years on the structure of haemoglobin and unravelling the molecular basis of the thalassaemias. He has been recognised globally for his achievements with many awards, and the Oxford Institute for Molecular Medicine now bears his name.

Dr Suzy Lishman

[email protected]