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The President Writes - March 2018

"Our flagship Triennial Conference will be held this year at the College"

As I sit down to write today a new year has dawned and Edinburgh and the College are both quiet - perhaps licking their wounds the morning after Hogmanay and the New Year’s celebrations. It seems to me that New Year and those few relatively quiet days in the ‘no mans land’ that lies between Christmas and the turn of the year are a good time to reflect upon the preceding 12 months and to make plans for the forthcoming year.

At the College, events leading up to our Annual General Meeting in November represent the end of our College’s calendar and professional year with newly elected members of Council taking their seats while others demit. This year Pala Rajesh, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon from Birmingham completed his term of office. Pala has made enormous contributions to College life in the UK and the international community, especially in India, Singapore and Hong Kong. I look forward to his continued work with our international portfolio through our Birmingham centre where he will continue to lead on one of our College’s International Fellowship Programmes. Professor Janet Wilson, Clinical and Academic Head of ENT from Newcastle joins Council and has already made her mark working in the field of shared decision making and informed consent. This will be a theme of emerging importance and activity during the coming year. Finally, I welcome our new Dental Dean, Professor Fraser McDonald who took 0ver from Professor Bill Saunders in November and is the Chair of Orthodontics at Kings College London.

Looking back over the past 12 months the College has achieved several notable firsts: our Let’s Remove It campaign, raising awareness and providing solutions for managing negative culture associated with bullying; our work on improving the working environment for safe surgical care; our partnership with the UK Citizen Aid programme; and in Hong Kong our first Critical Care Course held jointly with the College of Surgeons Hong Kong.

Also, during the 2017 general election year in the UK, we published our first College manifesto as a basis for our interaction with all the major political parties.

Our College faculties have been busy too, with two major events held within walking distance of our Birmingham Hub on Colmore Row. This year’s annual conference of the Faculty of Surgical Trainers focussed on identifying ‘Time for Training’ and was followed a couple of weeks later by the Faculty of Perioperative Care Conference where the focus was on the evolving role of perioperative practitioners in the surgical team. Both events attracted a significant audience and point towards our College’s pivotal role in developing and shaping governance in these areas.

But what of 2018? This year starts with a landmark event – the opening of an International Office in Malaysia at the University of Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). This is the culmination of several years of hard work by our College in partnership with UKM, the Academy of Medicine Malaysia and the College of Surgeons of Malaysia. I am extremely grateful for the enthusiasm and vision of Professor Hanafiah Harunarashid, President of the College of Surgeons of Malaysia, who has helped to propel this initiative to a satisfactory conclusion. This international office will help us co-ordinate and deliver educational activities with our partners not only in Malaysia but also throughout the region in Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar, Thailand and beyond.

Closer to home, our programme of regional visits will continue, starting with Belfast in January and Newcastle in February, and other events later in the year. I do hope that you will take the opportunity to come along and meet the Edinburgh team at these and other events.

In a similar vein, in 2018 we will relaunch of our Policy and Consultation group under the Chairmanship of Professor Graham Layer, Vice President. A key element will be virtual reference groups drawn from each of the four nations within the UK. I ask for your full engagement and contribution.

Looking ahead, the College needs to invest in our core College IT systems and in our website if we are to keep pace with the needs of our evolving membership. Our membership and communications team will look forward to the output of our Systems Transformation Project which is under the leadership of Council member Professor Simon Frostick. His team are currently evaluating the optimum IT package which will be fit for purpose today and provide the optimum platform for the future.

Investment in this and other professional development and educational offerings for our membership all come at a cost – a cost which cannot be borne by subscriptions alone. Whenever I travel across the UK and in the international community I am constantly reminded of the costs of training and the level of professional expenses borne not only by trainees but established consultants as well. With this in mind and the need to seek alternative income streams, Council agreed in mid 2017 to embark upon a project to extend the College’s Ten Hill Place Hotel in Surgeon’s Quarter in Edinburgh. It is an ambitious programme of work underpinned by a deliverable financial model. Work started on site at the beginning of July 2017, with the extension due to be completed by mid 2018 in time for the Edinburgh Festival high season in August. The expansion will provide an additional substantial annual trading surplus which can be gift aided to the College for investment into our core activities, avoiding the need for substantial increases in membership fees.

Our flagship Triennial Conference will be held at the College on 22 and 23 March. The theme, ‘the Modern Surgical Team: the Future of Surgery’ will examine the key issues that affect everyone who is part of a surgical team. I am extremely grateful to Professor Rowan Parks and all his team for their hard work in drawing together an outstanding programme. I encourage you all to do your utmost to support this event – bring a colleague with you!

My final activity this year was to attend ASICON the 77th Annual Clinical Congress of the Association of Surgeons of India held in Jaipur. The theme ‘Making Surgery Safer for Patients and Surgeons’ resonated with much of our current aims in the UK. We are not worlds apart as we all struggle to identify the necessary human, financial and time resource to deliver our health care and our training. A recurring theme during my visit was the need to provide training opportunities for surgeons toward the end of their domestic postgraduate programmes. Our College runs several fellowship programmes in the UK but the rate limiting step is the number of available placements. Could I encourage you to engage with your trusts to seek out any opportunities for international trainees? Vacant training slots currently filled with locums are one possibility and are a place to start the conversation.

Finally, when I embarked upon this Presidency two years ago I was warned that it will be the fastest three years of my life – wise words indeed. I do hope that this final year will see the realisation of the goals I have outlined above, which will leave the College in a strong position in the coming years.

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