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The President Writes - April 2016

College President Michael Lavelle-Jones provides his regular update

"All of us who practise in the devolved nations have a duty to support and protect the NHS"

What a difference a day makes. I think it is true to say that my life has not been the same since I received the call telling me the outcome of the ballot for the presidency. This election differed from those held in previous years in that candidates were subject to a hustings and had the opportunity to present their manifesto for the next three years. This was followed by a fairly robust Q&A session. At times it was challenging to be on the receiving end of the questions, but I would like to think it helped our Council towards an informed decision. I have no doubt that, in some form or another, a hustings will be part of the electoral process for presidents of the future.

For me, it has, of course, been an advantage stepping up to the plate from the position of Vice-President, and before that Honorary Secretary and Convenor of Examinations – all roles providing considerable insight and that vital institutional memory that I hope will smooth the transition to a new administration.

As I took over the reins on Friday 13 November, I reflected afterwards, at the diploma dinner, that while such a date was inauspicious for some – including myself – others were being catapulted into frontline surgical trauma practice in the aftermath of the tragic events in Paris and elsewhere in the world that evening. It serves as a reminder that we as surgeons and we as a College must always be prepared for the unexpected. Our current work around urgent care and disaster management should stand us in good stead.

What was more predictable was the outcome of the junior doctors’ ballot on strike action. I would like to think that such a clear mandate for industrial action has played its part in persuading all concerned to step back from the precipice and seek every means possible to find a suitable resolution. By the time this piece is in print, we may know the outcome of the next few weeks’ pivotal discussions. I am old enough (unfortunately) to remember the impact of the 1976 junior doctors’ strike when I was a final-year medical student in Liverpool. The impact was far-reaching and the temporary fix of persuading final-year medical students to fill the gap would clearly be no solution in 2016.

However, all has not been doom and gloom. I have had the opportunity to take part in the MRCS examinations in Hyderabad, India, where enthusiasm and support for our College knows no bounds. I also attended the Philippines College of Surgeons 71st Surgical Conference in Manila, which provided a first-hand opportunity to engage with my fellow presidents and colleagues from the region, and to explore ways in which we as a College can build partnerships and share expertise. It also served as a stark reminder of how our beleaguered NHS in the UK continues to be regarded elsewhere as an icon of good healthcare delivery. It all depends on your terms of reference. It also tells me that all of us who practise in the devolved nations have a duty to support and protect what I believe is one of our nation’s greatest assets – the NHS.

To return to the manifesto for the next three years, with our campuses in Edinburgh and Birmingham now truly fit for purpose, we are well placed to serve our membership in Scotland and the rest of the UK, where 80% of our domestic members are based. With that in mind, we shall build up our profile and portfolio of activities based at RCSEd Birmingham. In addition, in response to your feedback from the membership survey, we shall provide an enhanced outreach programme working alongside our Regional Surgical Advisers network. This is our opportunity to direct the intellectual and administrative capacity of our organisation to the development of our core business in education, training and assessment directly and through the mechanism of political influence.

Finally, and of equal importance, is our international community. I hope that over the next three years, I will succeed in making you feel even more a part of our College with increasing engagement through our new international Fellowship training scheme, enhanced distance and face-to-face learning programmes and, where appropriate, our Membership and Fellowship examinations. I hope our College activities over the next three years will accurately reflect your professional needs wherever you live and work.

To achieve these aims, I am fortunate to be supported by an extremely strong and experienced office-bearer team, with John Duncan and Graham Layer as Vice-Presidents alongside our Dental Dean, Bill Saunders. Richard Montgomery provides financial continuity as Honorary Treasurer and Judy Evans completes our team, taking on the role of Honorary Secretary. This team provides a good geographic and specialty spread from across the UK and is a reminder that, as a College, we have the interests of all surgical specialties at heart, as well as those represented by our faculties of Dentistry, Pre-hospital Care, and Sport and Exercise Medicine. The professional business governance and leadership of our organisation continues in the capable hands of our Chief Executive, Alison Rooney, supported by her departmental heads.

As well as appointing new office bearers, at the annual general meeting in November 2015 we welcomed some new members to Council, namely Tim Graham, Mike Griffin, Sanjay Gupta, Anna Paisley, Ahmed Nassef, Steve Wigmore and our new trainee representative, Alice Hartley. For the first time, there is a specific seat on Council for SAS doctors, who will be represented by Victoria Dobie.

We also said goodbye to several long-serving members of Council, notably Robert Steele, Robert Jeffrey, Peter McCollum, Sunil Kumar and Richard McGregor, who steps down on completion of his two-year appointment as our trainee representative. Peter McCollum will continue to share his invaluable experience in his capacity as Convenor of Examinations for the next two years.

I am confident that our new Council will provide wise counsel over the coming years for the benefit of our membership.

Wherever you are, I look forward to working with and for you.

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