Reflecting on winter and planning ahead

Taj NewsletterSpring is here! Always a good time to reflect a little on the winter behind us and planning for better things ahead.

Perhaps a little bit of time to reflect too on the success of the ‘Winter Plan’ for urgent & emergency care and what could have gone better… or perhaps just a matter of whether it could have got any worse! Certainly that old adage of “If you fail to plan, be ready to plan to fail” struck a particular chord for me in this my 18th year as a consultant. In many systems in the UK & Ireland of course, the planning blight and its consequences are now all year round. A constant mix of compromised patient care, distress for relatives and for staff linked to poor outcomes as a consequence of crowded Emergency Departments.

Frustrated as we are, I am constantly impressed by the innovative and positive approach taken by so many colleagues to fight through the tough times and deliver the best possible care for our patients. Some systems have undoubtedly had the funding and support that they need from their Executive Boards. That has led to greater resilience in workforce planning and not having to succumb to fragmented locum spending. It has also allowed better system networking, engagement and support. Unsurprisingly that has led to those few systems coping much better with the stresses of the last so many months much better.  So it can be done but it requires coherent and cohesive thinking that is focused very much on patients and the staff  employed to do the best for them.

Much of this is not rocket science but comes down to where we want our governments to prioritise acute healthcare. If we truly value the emergency care systems in this country we will have to invest in them. In many parts of the UK & Ireland we continue to struggle badly although some very slow progress is being made in the right direction as the recent Budget in England helpfully showed. Discussions with colleagues at the Department of Health, NHSI and HEE continue and it seems we are making some progress. Certainly for those of you who read our recent survey of MPs found that 60% said they would support Emergency Departments (EDs) receiving more money to help with the retention and recruitment of staff.

So, we continue to push our messages and solutions to the top of government in England as well as the devolved countries with our excellent National Boards. I was delighted to be supporting the Northern Irish Board in March at the Annual meeting. In addition, I recently also presented at the Nuffield Trust, a powerful healthcare charity and think tank and described the key challenges in emergency healthcare and also our solutions in the medium term.

There is much excitement with a host of ideas coming forward on celebrating our Golden Jubilee 50 years since the inception of the specialty and I am grateful to Diana Hulbert for helping co-ordinate these activities. Much more on that will be appearing on the website.

I also urge you to start planning your trip to the Annual Autumn Conference in Liverpool this year in October 2017. It promises to be excellent.

Dr Tajek Hassan
President, The Royal College of Emergency Medicine

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