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RCP vice president for Wales: The autumn series

In her October blog, Dr Olwen Williams looks forward to the autumn rugby internationals, announces the winners of the Wales poster competition and reflects on the media response to our recent visits to the Grange University and Wrexham Maelor hospitals.

Many of you will have realised from my monthly blogs that I am a keen gardener. I love the changing seasons and the delights they bring. Autumn is no exception: the focus moves from the garden lawn to the rugby pitch! Yes, the autumn rugby internationals. This year, I will need a COVID-19 passport to attend – does this give me added confidence? Fortunately the uptake of vaccination in Wales has been excellent across all age groups and our influenza vaccination drive is in full swing along with ongoing mask use on public transport and in shops and hospitals. So yes, I recognise all is being done to keep us safe, but our community prevalence of COVID-19 remains uncomfortably high. We could be in for a difficult winter.

Autumn is also a time to reap rewards and harvest the fruit of seeds sown months earlier. This year's Wales trainee poster competition highlighted this. I thoroughly enjoyed being a judge, albeit virtually. The posters were of an extremely high calibre and my co-judges, Dr Hilary Williams, Dr Jon Goodfellow and Dr Shaun Smale had a difficult decision choosing the winners. And here they are!

Wales poster competition 2021

Our virtual poster judging session took place on Friday 8 October. I was joined by Dr Shaun Smale, head of the school of medicine at Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW), Dr Hilary Williams, RCP lead regional adviser for the poster competition, and Dr Jon Goodfellow, chair of the Society of Physicians of Wales. Prizes of £250, £150 and £100 were provided by HEIW. The top two scoring authors also receive free entry to Medicine 2022. Dr Williams was very impressed with the standard and said:

'The standard of applications and number of applications continues to increase year on year, and it is a challenge for the judges to shortlist. We are proud to give our junior doctors the opportunity to showcase their projects each year and were very impressed with their innovative leadership to improving patient care in Wales.’

1st Place – Dr Emily Appadurai for ‘Development and implementation of a Bleep Simulation Programme to improve medical student access to medical education during the pandemic’.

2nd Place – Dr Mark Ponsford for ‘The burden of nosocomial COVID-19 in Wales: results from a multi-centre retrospective observational study of 2,508 hospitalised adults’.

3rd Place – Dr Ben Pyrke for ‘Staffing a pandemic’

We would like to thank all those who submitted an abstract and remind everyone that this is an annual event with cash prizes and an opportunity to present their work at a national RCP conference. The top 30 highest scoring abstracts have been included in the 2021 Wales abstract booklet.

Speaking out on your behalf

We have been extremely busy responding to Welsh government consultations – thank you for your contributions. You may have seen recent stories in the press about our reports following the RCP president’s visits to Wrexham Maelor and the Grange University hospitals. These reports have been shared with key stakeholders and we are in regular contact with the medical directors at both health boards to monitor the implementation of their action plans. Our key priorities are keeping patients safe and looking out for doctors as the NHS recovers from the pandemic.

Long COVID

Last month, I met with Dr Simon Barry, national lead for the respiratory health implementation group. Here he discusses the work that he and colleagues have been doing in the past 18 months:

'Early in March 2020 we recognised that COVID would create confusion since there were no clear guidelines on how to treat this novel infection. As a result, we created the all-Wales COVID secondary care guideline which was implemented within 3 weeks and has continually delivered updates on all aspects of managing COVID in a video format delivered by local and national experts. It quickly reached over 90% of the target population, comprising all COVID ward, intensive care and emergency department consultants. This impact coincided with Wales having significantly lower mortality when compared to England in the first wave (ONS, 2020).

‘Following from this success, a community-based model of care was introduced in Wales in early 2021 to support the estimated 8,500 people with long COVID (ONS, 2021). This comprised a national long COVID guideline for GPs and a bilingual COVID recovery app for patients (developed in collaboration with the long COVID Wales patient support group). The aim is to ensure that people are offered support close to home, with referrals to therapy-led rehab programmes and specialist consultant care where necessary.

‘Both the long COVID guideline and patient-led app have already shown impact with over 90% of GP practices adopting the guideline, and 8,000 downloads spread across the country, mirroring the number of people estimated to be suffering. This innovative approach was funded by Welsh government and developed and implemented by the Institute of Clinical Science and Technology (ICST) working together with the directors of therapies across the seven health Boards in Wales.’

Diversity and inclusion

The one year progress report for Ben Summerskill’s report on diversity and inclusion at the RCP is now available. Please do take a look.

The role of doctors in tackling inequalities

Health inequalities are felt most directly by individuals and communities, but they also place a considerable burden on our health service. Doctors are close to the problem of health inequalities and see it in their work every day. The BMA has produced an interactive toolkit to support clinicians to take action to tackle inequalities in their local areas.

A week of learning from the Bevan Commission

The Bevan Commission has partnered with the All-Wales Intensive Learning Academy to offer an intensive learning week for health and care professionals. The programme will support health and care professionals to influence change and make an impact in their workplace by focusing on how to innovate and transform health and care. Scholarships are available to those based in Wales and the week runs from 29 November – 3 December.

Remembering Donal

Finally, I represented our Wales members and fellows at a profoundly moving yet uplifting celebratory memorial service for Professor Donal O'Donoghue earlier this month. I took a moment to reflect on all our colleagues who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Stay safe.