As we move into May I suspect that many readers will have grown tired of campaigns. As we await the result of the forthcoming General Election in the UK, it seems prudent and indeed even refreshing to set aside issues of policy, disagreements and matters of contention. Instead I thought I might reflect on some of the people I have met on behalf of the College over the last two years. This will also serve as a reminder that in 12 months time the call for nominations for the next president will be made – so with politics in the air it is time for some Fellows to consider their own manifestos!
Let me begin with a very recent encounter with a young lady on the Central Line. I was journeying on the underground from Paddington to Chancery Lane en route to the College and became aware of a young lady sat some five yards away who had glanced in my direction and smiled. Now whilst to many of you this will be a quotidian experience, for me it is distinctly unusual. All the more so when the glance was repeated and she made as if to say something. Suddenly she sat beside me and spoke – “I’ve never done this before but I saw you on the television at the Health Select Committee hearing and I just wanted to say ‘well done’”. As I was about to alight from the train, time permitted nothing more than the chance to thank her for her kind words. I therefore no neither her name, nor even if she is an EM doctor. However the encounter cheered me considerably and I reflected on how fortunate I have been to be the president of a Royal College and to have the privilege of representing people whom I regard as heroes. To receive unsolicited and spontaneous encouragement is a rare treat – certainly something that few if any of us receive at work.
A second encounter earlier this year provides a useful counterpoint. I was invited to attend a meeting of the East and West Midlands Trainers and Trainees and so made my way to the impressive campus of the Coventry and Warwick Hospital. I went to the reception desk of the medical education centre and explained I was attending an EM educational event and the helpful lady replied ‘Ah yes – there are two young ladies sat at the registration desk upstairs expecting your arrival’ – without pausing, I ran up the escalator and proceeded directly to the aforementioned registration desk. I thought I hid my disappointment well as I introduced myself as ‘Cliff Mann’ to the young chap who had taken over what admittedly was an unexciting administrative task. However my disappointment was supplemented by a factually accurate yet somehow ‘grounding’ reply – “Are you the bloke from the College?’ And so it was the case, and should always be the case, that any pretensions to being anything more than ‘the bloke from the College’ are both untrue and conceited.
In my defence I generally find that two 10 hour late shifts at a weekend soon put paid to any notion of self importance!
People in powerful positions are often criticised and it is a sad fact of political life that misrepresentation is all too often a feature of both the style and substance of media coverage. The House of Commons will soon have some new members. I have met with MPs, Ministers, Shadow Ministers and Cabinet Ministers and all have been well informed, friendly and genuinely committed to addressing the challenges facing urgent and emergency care. I hope and expect the dialogue between the College and the parliamentarians of all four UK nations to continue and indeed be reinvigorated irrespective of the electoral calculus that will decide the outcome of the General Election. In contrast our dealings with national bodies have at times been difficult. The expertise that they have is not always sufficient to ensure the debate is fully informed and it is here that the College has a unique role to play. This is not a popularity contest, and often the resources each party can bring to bear are asymmetric. The Executive committee, Council and staff of the College will continue to press our concerns and solutions without fear or favour and in doing so we aim to represent our electorate as honest delegates charged with raising standards in emergency medicine.
The AGM will be at the Scientific Meeting in Manchester at the end of September. This event enables any member or fellow to hold the Office Bearer’s of the College to account and I encourage you to do so either in writing or in person.
Dr Cliff Mann FRCEM FRCP
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine