Pathology practice has changed radically since the NHS began in 1948, and pathologists have been at the heart of many programmes that have not only saved millions of lives but have also prevented serious disability. You can read fascinating personal accounts from members about how pathology and the NHS have evolved over the years in the NHS and Me section on page 168.
The government’s announcement to increase funding for the NHS by £20bn a year until 2023 is a welcome development. We have been asking for more resource, and it is good to see this come to fruition. In particular, I am encouraged that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, has suggested that some of the money will be used for ‘transforming cancer care’ and will be aligned with a long-term plan for workforce. This recognises that ‘there can be no transformation without the right number of staff, in the right settings and with the right skills.’ We have made our case with him, and with many others, about the need for more pathologists of all disciplines, as well as the need for greater support for our workforce, both in terms of training, day-to-day work and IT infrastructure.
It’s been a busy yet very productive time at the College, with some very pleasing developments and some great new initiatives.
Learning for patient safety
The invitation from the Secretary of State to accompany him to six NHS trusts in Doncaster, Sheffield and Chesterfield was an ideal time to talk to him one-to-one and ensure he is well briefed on pathology, its expertise, and our workforce, IT and simplified commissioning needs. The primary purpose of the visits was to discuss reflecting on incidents and reducing patient harm through shared learning.
The announcement of the introduction of medical examiners is a very welcome culmination of many years of work, and a real tribute to those who have worked so very hard to help make this happen. This is an important development in our College commitment to patient safety through learning from deaths. There is still lots to do to make this happen in practice, including updating the e-learning modules, setting out a series of face-to-face training events and making sure we learn across institutions. We look forward to welcoming a range of professionals into the College; College Council and the Medical Examiners Committee are considering the best ways to do this before making recommendations to the Trustee Board. We also anticipate the appointment of a lead national Medical Examiner, with whom, together with the Chief Coroner, we will work on the programme.
We have published more Patient Safety Bulletins, which you can find on the website, or access for CPD credits via the eCPD app. We anticipate that this will help with learning across organisations and be a valuable resource for training, revalidation and personal development in the patient safety domain. Our safety programme continues with the advertisement for a Clinical Director of Safety and Quality, who will help coordinate our activities in these areas in collaboration with our Vice President for Professionalism, Dr Tim Littlewood. See the advertisement on page 183 – we hope many of you will apply for this exciting new role.
Making a difference
I take the job very seriously. When I go to a dinner, meeting or event, it is specifically to celebrate or promote pathology, to educate about pathology and to communicate our messages about what we need for pathology. Yes, I might take a photo (to show my mum), or tweet to let you know what I am up to, but I never forget that you have asked me to do a job. With the great support of honorary officers, regional and specialty experts, College staff and many others, I am trying to do it as best I can.
I recently attended a dinner organised by the Chief of Staff at 10 Downing Street, along with presidents of other medical royal colleges. I was an astonishing opportunity to sit down with the full range of government advisors to discuss the future of the NHS – we were able to tell them what we thought the NHS needed. Since then, two of the top items on the list have been delivered: Tier 2 visa cap restrictions have been lifted for doctors and nurses, and more money has been made available for the NHS. So, I know that, working together with others, we are getting our messages heard.
We will continue to press for solutions to the other issues, such as investment in IT, investment in workforce, equity of access to tests, coordination of commissioning and folate supplementation in flour. I have had some great opportunities to tell our story to a range of senior policymakers in government and on the shadow health team recently, and this has been invaluable air time for pathology. I will continue to engage, in order to influence national policy for our members and our patients.
Seeds of the future
As we consider how the NHS can be sustained for the future, encouraging the next generation to consider a career in pathology is a key priority for the College. One of the ways we have been trying to increase the profile of pathology with undergraduates has been though summer school and related events. We are also bolstering our e-learning resources for undergraduates through the leadership of Dr Simon Cross, to support the pathology undergraduate curriculum.
We will be running webinars and similar events from our new offices at 6 Alie Street (see page 184), to help undergraduates access great pathology resources, and to give them an opportunity to see and meet some of our inspiring colleagues across all the disciplines.
In this context I am delighted to announce the appointment of three undergraduate leads for the College, Dr Angharad Davies, Dr Richard Byers and Dr Hasan Rizvi, who will work together with the Vice President for Learning, Professor Shelley Heard, to boost our presence and profile among this key group. It’s vital they learn more about the great careers available in pathology.
To that end, we are refreshing our careers information on the website and will be launching new printed careers information at the 2018 summer school in August. We are also planning a special careers event aimed at medical and biomedical undergraduates as part of National Pathology Week this November.
In mentioning national profile and benefitting patients, it is fantastic to be able to celebrate those recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Congratulations to College Fellows, Professor George Edward Griffin, who was awarded an OBE for services to public health and health research; Professor Sian Ellard, who was awarded an OBE for services to patient care; Professor Peter Chiodini, who was awarded an OBE for services to parasitology and malaria; and Professor Sue Hill OBE, who was awarded a Damehood for services to the 100,000 Genome Project and to NHS genomic medicine.
Congratulations also go to respected colleagues, including Mrs Jeanie Martin, who was awarded an MBE for services to the histopathology and immunogenetics laboratory and to patients, and Professor Jane Dacre, who was awarded a Damehood for services to medicine and medical education.