It’s hard to believe that my period of office as BGS President is almost half way through, but that realisation made me think that this might be a good point to reflect on the role.
As many of you will be aware, the BGS has a small number of appointed posts and a number of elected positions which are filled by members. We also have a small employed staff team who are based in Marjory Warren House in London, led of course by our chief executive, the indomitable Mr Colin Nee.
The president is an elected role and any member may stand, requiring a proposer and seconder. The president is elected two years before they take office and serves as “president elect” for that time. There are some duties which fall to that role, and many additional requests, demands and opportunities which also come the way of the office bearer.
The president chairs the board of trustees of BGS - a body of fifteen people representing BGS members in the four nations of the UK. The elected office holders (honorary secretary, treasurer) form part of the board; the appointed members (the vice presidents for education and training, for academic affairs, for clinical quality and for workforce) sit on the board, but in a non-voting capacity. The chair of the trainees group sits on the board, and the Nurses’ and AHPs section have a representative. We also have two lay trustee board members.
The board meets four times a year and has the responsibility of ensuring that BGS works to achieve its charitable aims and that it is managed to do so. Standing items are matters such as the state of BGS finances, reviews of the functions of the society (such as conferences, membership, reports from the vice presidents etc). Requests for substantial funding (for example, currently to redesign our website) must be approved by the board.
Geriatrics bodies outside the UK
The president is also a member (representing BGS) of the EUGMS full board; this meets twice a year and oversees the functions of EUGMS, including its conferences and its role is facilitating the sharing of good practice, both in arenas such as education and training and in clinical practice across Europe. In the light of our own national events, colleagues may be interested to learn that EUGMS has recently changed its name from European Union Geriatric Medicine Society to European Geriatric Medicine Society- whilst its acronym remains unchanged. This change was unrelated to any recent national referenda but may prove beneficial to our status within that organisation!
The president also represents BGS at the council meeting of the membership Societies of the International Geriatrics and Gerontology Society, which meets every four years and did so this year during the IAGG conference in San Francisco. The chair of the board has just passed from Korea to USA and it will be interesting to observe the contrasting styles of the office bearers. The next IAGG will be hosted by Argentina in Buenos Aires in four years’ time. At the conference the hosts for the following meeting were elected - as it was Europe’s turn to host, there were three excellent “pitches” and the Netherlands were successful by a narrow margin - they will follow Argentina in 2025.
The BGS and Royal College of Physicians (London)
The president and president elect sit on two of the RCP London’s committees to ensure close links with that organisation- the president elect on the Medical Specialties Board and the President on RCP Council. We also have a three times yearly meeting between RCP London college officers (the president, registrar and other relevant staff members) with BGS office holders and staff to allow more detailed discussion of mutually important issues.
Recurring themes at those meetings are workforce issues, especially regarding an accurate picture concerning recruitment and retention of trainees in our specialty. Other related issues include opportunities to ensure that we are fully aware of developments in matters such as “Share of Training” and can offer advice; reflections on the SCE exam and the Diploma in Geriatric Medicine.
We discuss relevant issues such as intelligence on the role of STPs and any topical issues. These provide an excellent opportunity for BGS to ensure that the college is aware of the demands on our services, the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience of our members and can maximise the opportunities for synergy between ourselves and the college.
The BGS President’s role
The president receives many invitations to attend conferences, and only a proportion can be accepted, but those from regional BGS committees are always given high priority by both the president and the president elect. These give us an opportunity to meet with a wider range of members and hear first hand the key challenges we are all facing in our daily clinical work. They also give a great opportunity to hear some excellent local speakers and very frequently, to see the work of some of our excellent trainees “showcased”.
Another major role of the president is around our twice yearly conferences - BGS have an organising committee led by the conferences secretary (an elected role) and by Geraint Collingridge (who we are extremely fortunate to have as an employed member of staff) and his team. They do the hard work of suggesting themes, identifying speakers and doing all the work of arranging venues etc etc.
As well as being asked to speak at a wide range of events (in addition to our own conferences (national and regional)) requests come from such sources as RCN, RCP London and RCP Edinburgh, various NIHR network meetings. It’s often very difficult to prioritise these whilst balancing the demands of an ongoing clinical role.
Other invitations come from organisations holding “round table” events to raise the profile of issues with politicians and others with influence - the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, Health Services Journal and King’s Fund have recently held such events. They are usually attended by a number of high profile Westminster politicians and journalists, and are another opportunity for BGS to raise its profile as an advocate for the care of our patients.
BGS always tries to respond to requests from journalists for responses to newsworthy events or publications as one of the ways we try to achieve our charitable aims is by increasing our influence so that we are a “louder” voice to advocate for the healthcare of older people - this frequently means that Marina (the BGS Communications Manager on the secretariat) chases me (and other members) to speak to journalists- always at very short notice - that being the nature of the life of a “story”. Marina and I were delighted recently to be quoted in The Times on two consecutive days - one in a story about access of people with dementia to food and drink whilst in hospital, and the other about patients falling whilst in hospital.
It is a huge privilege to fulfil the role of president and I’ll continue to do so to the absolute best of my abilities until my term of office ends in Autumn next year.