February 4th 2015 will be one of the few dates I will be able to recall in later life. A telephone call at 11am followed by a letter stating:
‘Permission to use the title Royal is granted by the Sovereign, acting on the advice of her Ministers. following careful consideration of your application, I am pleased to inform you that your request has been approved.’
Thirty-six words that are culmination of a long journey and much hard work by many people.
It was forty years ago that the first Specialist Advisory Committee for A&E medicine was formed and therefore it became possible to undertake a formal recognised training scheme in Emergency Medicine. This in itself was remarkable as the very first EM body, the Causality Surgeons Association (CSA) had only been formed in 1967, some eight years earlier.
The CSA was renamed The British Association of A&E Medicine (BAEM) in 1990 and a Faculty was created in 1993 under the auspices of six parent colleges! These were the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians, The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons and Physicians of Glasgow, and the Royal College of Anaesthetists. Thereafter the Faculty became a College and merged with the BAEM and our Royal Charter was granted in 2008.
It is clear that those of us in EM today owe a huge debt of thanks to the leaders of those progenitor organisations and our professional predecessors.
It will take some time for the practicalities to be addressed; branding, post-nominals, email addresses and in due course a new website. I hope that you will bear with us whilst we proceed with an extensive list of tasks consequent upon our name change.
I confess to being cheered every time I see ‘Royal College of Emergency Medicine’ in print. To be frank, it just seems right! We have received hundreds of message and dozens of letters of congratulations from individuals and organisations. Almost all have emphasised the regard in which EM front-line staff are held; both for their expertise and their stamina.
Of course a change of name does not address the key challenges we face. the CEM10 and the STEP campaign make no reference to the need for the Royal title. However it is undoubtedly true that reality is recognised through perception. The name change has certainly not only cheered many of us, it will also enable us to better argue our case as not only THE definitive body of EM expertise in the UK but a body that has been recognised as such by the Establishment via the award of this rare honour.
Our Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, has been a tremendous supporter of the endeavours of the College. When she spoke at the EM Leaders conference at the British Library last year no-one was left in any doubt that she understood precisely the challenges faced and her admiration for all those working in our emergency departments. Similarly without the full support of the Secretary of State for Health and senior civil servants we would not have become a Royal College.
I said at the annual College dinner that it was the responsibility of the College to ‘Speak truth unto power’. I believe that our campaigns; designed to be clear, concise and constructive, have done exactly hat. in this day and age it is refreshing that candour can be rewarded rather than ignored or decried.
At the same event I made reference to the aphorism that in times of trouble one can ‘rage against the darkness or light a candle’ I felt that for the College this was a false dichotomy. It was essential that we ‘rage against the darkness’ experienced by all EM staff and many patients in overcrowded and understaffed departments, where Exit Block is an all to frequent occurrence; but it is also right that we illuminate the debates regarding the solutions by providing coherent, expert analysis and recommendations. At the risk of sounding trite the Royal title has given us a bigger candle!
Our first conference as a Royal College will be later this month in Belfast. I hope to meet many of you at what promises to be a great conference with a unique reason for celebration. Next month I will report back on our ‘Fact not Fiction’ study day aimed at middle managers in the NHS. We have over 160 registered delegates, a great speaker line up and a resource pack aimed at dispelling many of the common myths, misinformation and misconceptions that pervade current debates. It is my singular privilege to note the attribution of this article as the President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.
Dr Cliff Mann FRCEM FRCP
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine