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RCP vice president for Wales: Enjoy the small things in life when lockdown lifts

As the Senedd election draws near, Dr Olwen Williams reflects on RCP campaign priorities.

What constitutes a ‘reward’?

I write this during a time of unrest in the NHS family. What do our colleagues deserve after a year of working in the most difficult circumstances since the creation of the NHS? Is a pay rise the most important issue, or is it more important to be able to do one’s job within allocated hours, have time to do research or engage in learning activities, and to take leave and recuperate without feeling guilty about leaving overstretched colleagues behind?

Earlier this month, we launched our latest report, Recover, rebuild, renew, which received excellent media coverage across the BBC, ITV and in the Western Mail.

Ahead of the Senedd parliamentary election on 6 May, we are calling on the next Welsh government to recruit and train more doctors, invest in community and social care, and tackle health inequalities which have been exposed and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report went to RCP Council in March, and I’d urge you all to read it, especially the case studies showcasing the work done by our trainee doctors to improve patient care through the pandemic.

We want the Welsh government to hear what our members in Wales are saying: to quote one of our trainee physicians, ‘offering wellbeing services doesn’t make up for an unprecedented workload, inadequate staffing, the risk of acquiring COVID-19 or a lack of training’. Reward doesn’t mean just money – it’s so much more than that.

Connecting with our membership

On 10 March, Dr Sam Rice, our regional adviser in south-west Wales, chaired the first ever Cyswllt RCP Connect event for clinicians in Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay university health boards. This online get-together was a huge success; we discussed workforce wellbeing, access to clinical research, medical education, health inequalities, and so much more. We’ll be publishing a follow-up report later this year. In the meantime, if you would like us to organise one for your area, please get in touch.

Pressure on clinicians in a difficult time

I’m becoming concerned about the impact of coroner cases on our members. A colleague from the Society of Physicians in Wales has suggested that the growing number of COVID-19-related cases will highlight moral injury and put undue pressure on physicians’ wellbeing, taking doctors away from their clinical duties and forcing them to revisit difficult situations. NHS health boards need to be cognisant of these issues and support individuals proactively.

Dates announced for our 2021 winter conference

I’m delighted to announce that the RCP Cymru Wales winter update in medicine will be going ahead – albeit virtually. Put the dates in your diary: 8–9 December 2021. I’m looking forward to an innovative programme, but somehow, I don’t think we will be able to avoid at least one session on COVID-19! 

Wellbeing: it’s for life, not just for COVID-19

Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny is host to one of the most interesting and innovative projects I’ve heard about lately. I’m proud to say that two of the 2020 RCP Cymru Wales poster competition prize winners, Dr Kate Edwards and Dr Madhu Kannan, decided to reinvest their winnings in setting up a ‘wobble room’. This is a safe, quiet space where doctors can reflect, escape, relax or even have a cry in private. It’s an inspiring idea which we will discuss in an upcoming article on the RCP website. In the meantime, if you are motivated to set up something similar in your hospital, get in touch!

Speaking of wellbeing…

Health for Health Professionals Wales offers a free, confidential service for NHS staff, students and volunteers in Wales, providing rapid access to various levels of mental health support. Find out more or get in touch.

The impact of COVID-19

In this video on the RCP Player, the Health Foundation, a member of the Inequalities in Health Alliance convened by the RCP, introduces their COVID-19 impact inquiry. Dame Clare Moriarty, chair of the inquiry’s expert advisory group, and Dr Mehrunisha Suleman, senior research fellow, discuss how the pandemic has exacerbated existing health inequalities and created ‘new’ ones.

Conversations for ethically complex care

Decisions about the escalation, de-escalation or a change of level of care can be complex. This RCP guidance provides a framework for having ethical discussions about those decisions. Our colleagues in London want to speak to doctors about their experiences using the Ethical Care Decision-Making Record in practice, so we can improve it. If you would like to take part in a short interview, please get in touch.

RCP Chief Registrar Programme

The RCP Chief Registrar Programme is the RCP’s flagship work-based leadership programme for trainee doctors. If you are interested in becoming a chief registrar for 2021/22 or if you know anyone who may be interested in becoming an RCP chief registrar, encourage them to apply for vacancies advertised on NHS Jobs or visit our website to see the full list of recruiting NHS organisations. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Turner-Warwick lecturer scheme

I can highly recommend this fantastic opportunity for trainee physicians: join us at our 2021 update and present your work to hundreds of your colleagues. Apply by 6 June 2021!   

Lewis Thomas Gibbon Jenkins of Briton Ferry fellowship

This fellowship is open to trainees, and funds the promotion of medical research within Wales. Applications close on 4 July 2021.

Anti-bullying and undermining campaign

Colleagues at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh are seeking clinicians to join their anti-bullying and undermining campaign group. If you are passionate about changing bullying behaviour in the NHS, please get in touch. They are hoping to hold a campaign event in Wales later this year if restrictions allow.

Take care – enjoy the small things in life that the lifting of lockdown brings. Mine will be a haircut