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RCP vice president for Wales: Spring is in the air

Dr Olwen Williams looks ahead to the upcoming Senedd elections, two virtual RCP president’s visits, the Wales Update in Medicine in December, and much more.

The past few weeks have seen a significant decline in the number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 in Wales. The R number is now between 0.7–0.9, there has been a drop in hospital admissions and ICU bed occupancy, and we’ve seen a considerable increase in the number of people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Consequently, Technical Advisory Group advice has influenced the Welsh government’s decision to lift some restrictions. Time for optimism? Let’s hope so.

Meanwhile, individuals with post-Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccination headaches have been presenting to acute and GP services. This is probably linked to recent publicity around rare thrombotic complications. We recently raised this with Dr Frank Atherton, chief medical officer for Wales, as it is putting additional pressures on stretched services. The RCP, along with the Society for Acute Medicine, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the British Society of Neuroradiologists, have produced joint guidance on the management of patients presenting with a query of COVID-19 vaccine induced thrombosis and thrombocytopenia (VITT).

‘We would never have managed without the care physicians have provided’

Earlier this week, we published an open letter to physicians in Wales from Dr Jack Parry-Jones of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine. In the letter, he thanked colleagues for their efforts during the past year, saying ‘the support from acute medicine, general medicine, and more directly respiratory and infectious disease teams in providing care for large numbers of critically ill patients in high respiratory care areas has been extraordinary.’

A national election on the horizon

A week today, the Senedd elections will take place, and a new Welsh parliament will be chosen by the people of Wales. The new Welsh government will have a lot to take on: economic uncertainty, growing inequalities, a health system that has been battered and bruised by the pandemic, and an exhausted NHS workforce who need support more than ever.

On 14 April, I presented RCP Wales' manifesto calls for the next Welsh government at a health and social care hustings organised by the Welsh NHS Confederation. Speaking on behalf of their parties were Angela Burns (Welsh Conservatives), Vaughan Gething (Welsh Labour) and Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid Cymru). I am delighted to say that all three thanked the NHS workforce for their efforts during the pandemic so far, and more importantly, all three committed to increase the number of doctors and healthcare professionals in Wales. Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour have also committed to establishing a new medical school in north Wales.  

As the election approaches, political parties have published their manifestos. The Welsh Conservatives are promising to guarantee increased NHS spending every year and reduce waiting lists. Welsh Labour are promising to invest in new diagnostics and technologies and invest in 12,000 new medical staff by 2026. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are promising to increase mental health spending and establish a taskforce on health inequalities. Plaid Cymru are promising to establish a new national health and social care service and recruit 1,000 extra doctors. If you want to learn more about the election, read my recent blog.  

Coming to a hospital near you …  

In May, the RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard, our newly appointed registrar Dr Cathryn Edwards and I will be visiting north Wales (albeit virtually) as we join colleagues at Wrexham Maelor Hospital for discussions with trainees, physician associates, SAS doctors and consultants. In June, the president is also looking forward to visiting the brand-new Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran. These private meetings are free to attend. If you work at either hospital and would like to join us, please email Wales@rcp.ac.uk.

Save the date!

In other exciting news, we have now started planning the programme for the Wales Update in Medicine, our 2-day virtual conference on 8–9 December. We’re keen to include something for everyone – with a few novel sessions. Email Wales@rcp.ac.uk to receive an alert when bookings open.

Take part in the GMC’s national training survey

The GMC’s national training survey is now open until Tuesday 18 May. It’s your chance to make your voice count and have your say on medical training. It takes around 15 minutes to complete on the GMC’s online portal. The survey asks about quality of training; workloads and burnout; time available to deliver or receive training; access to break rooms and study spaces, and incivility and rudeness in the workplace. This year’s survey also includes questions about the impact of the pandemic. I strongly encourage you to take part, whether you are a trainee or a trainer – your answers drive change.

Appraisals and coaching skills

As of 1 April, the NHS Wales appraisal system is ‘back to normal’. However, there will be a new focus on wellbeing – please remember that the RCP has collated some excellent resources. And on another note, the Health Education and Improvement Wales Revalidation Unit has produced an appraiser skills training module for both new and current appraisers, and are currently working on a module about using coaching skills in the context of appraisal.

Showcasing quality improvement (QI) in Swansea Bay

If you work in Neath Port Talbot, Singleton or Morriston hospitals, colleagues in Swansea Bay are calling for abstracts of 300 words on what you’ve achieved in QI during the past year. Submissions are welcome from all specialties/clinical staff and hospital sites. The closing date for entries is 7 May.

Trainees will have the opportunity to display their work and potentially present to a wider audience at events in June 2021, with regional prizes awarded by a judging panel. For more information, please contact RCP chief registrar Dr Julia Scaife: julia.scaife@wales.nhs.uk.

Let's talk about ... alcohol and health inequalities with Professor Sir Ian Gilmore and Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

In this video on the RCP Player, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance and our very own Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff discuss their work on the Commission on Alcohol Harm and the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Delivering bereavement care in Wales

This year has been painful and hard for so many reasons, but for many of us, one of the most difficult aspects has been breaking bad news from afar. The Welsh government has developed a draft National Framework for the Delivery of Bereavement Care in Wales and a consultation will run until 17 May 2021.

A new specialist grade for SAS doctors

The new senior SAS grade – the specialist grade – is being introduced from 1 April 2021. The package has been approved by Welsh ministers and the British Medical Association. You can find out more at the NHS Employers website: Guidance and resources SAS contract 2021 – NHS Employers and The specialist grade 2021 – NHS Employers. More information is also available at the BMA website.

Regulation of advanced practice

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is asking doctors to respond to a short survey on HCPC regulation of advanced practice. The survey contains further background information about the scope and purpose of the project, and a series of brief questions.

Diagnosis and management of pernicious anaemia

The Pernicious Anaemia Society has formed a priority setting partnership with the James Lind Alliance to identify ten ‘uncertainties’ with the diagnosis and management of pernicious anaemia –and they are asking for your help. These uncertainties will go on to form several research programmes. You are invited to complete a short survey to have your say in what needs to change to help doctors make a quick and accurate diagnosis.

And finally … 

With hairdressers finally open, I look forward to a completely new look – no bright pink, I promise!