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President's Column

As I came in to post we had just completed our governance changes and published our guidance around care homes. The initial intention had been to allow things to settle but it became clear that we needed to influence agendas around education and recruitment quickly, to find partners to publicise frailty, particularly the patient and carer view and be more proactive about policy agendas across the four home nations, especially unscheduled care and integration between health and social care. In addition, our new Trustees required some time to bed in and it was essential that the Board as a whole was able to develop as a cohesive team. Thus, there was a requirement to continue to refine our structures and create a forward plan so that we knew what we were doing, how we were going to achieve it and what it might cost. 

As I write this I can look back to see that we have:

  • A Trustee Board that is developing nicely with new induction processes
  • A three year plan that will guide the President and the Trustee Board and be publicised to members
  • The creation of two Vice President posts. Two high level appointments have been made in these roles to raise the Society’s profile in the areas of Clinical Quality and Academic Affairs.
  • Under the leadership of the Vice President for Clinical Quality, we developed guidance for commissioners of care in care homes. This has been downloaded over 3,000 times, from the BGS website. The Vice President for Academic Affairs, in the meantime, is in the advanced stage of leading the development of an academic and research strategy.
  • Agreement from the General Medical Council and others that training for doctors and other healthcare professionals in the principles of geriatric medicine is inadequate in both undergraduate and postgraduate spheres. The GMC have recently referenced our resources in their online publication to improve the care of older people. The foundation committee of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Core Medical Training Advisory Committee of the Joint Royal Colleges Training Board also agree that more rotations involving supervision by geriatricians would be helpful in producing doctors who can confidently deal with the patients who are core business of the NHS both in primary and secondary care. 
  • Remodelled our Education and Training Committee with a broader focus and new director and membership. We have also started work with our colleagues in Old Age Psychiatry to see, amongst other things, what we might be able to gain from the Shape of Training Report as it goes forward.
  • Published Fit for Frailty (part one) through Gill Turner and our clinical quality group and had partnership agreements on the topic with Age UK and the RCGP.
  • Established contact with Health Education England and NHS Education for Scotland around recruitment and input into non-medical education whilst solidifying the role of our Director of Workforce
  • On the back of media interest in care homes, managed to plan meetings with regulators and health department officials in all 4 home nations
  • Restructured the academic and research arms of our work - additionally bringing in-house the organisation of our biannual meetings, reducing costs and improving attendance thus far
  • Reviewed our staff roles under our new CEO and have recruited a new policy officer so that we can be more proactive in influencing policy on the health care of older people 

Going forward in the next couple of years, I suspect that we will need more of the same and seek to maximise our influence by partnering with other like-minded organisations. We need to ensure that our specialty maximises any possible advantages as Shape of Training moves forward and guard against geriatric medicine getting lost in a drive towards generalism. We need to be at the heart of plans for integration and be persistent in lobbying governments in the UK, to make sure that the expertise of geriatric medicine is remembered as a solution for older people and it isn’t all about social care. I would also like to see a rejuvenation of the English regions in the BGS and more connection between the regions and the nations and the centre organisation in London. 

I hope to do my bit post-presidency as I have been invited to sit on the RCP London’s Future Hospital Commission Strategic Advisory Group. As I was remarking to some colleagues last week, I don’t recall ever being on a committee that had four Knights of the realm in its membership. The group and the commission have the potential to be quite influential.

I want to applaud Eileen Burns and Jim George for contesting a close fight for the President Elect post and congratulate Eileen on her success. Without members being willing to contribute to the society we would be in a sorry state. Perhaps, next time we will be able to have more voters involved.

I look forward to David, the Trustees and Vice Presidents taking the BGS forward and I wish them, the CEO, Colin Nee, and all the staff at Marjory Warren House every success and would like to thank them for all their support.

I want to thank lots of people who have enabled me to make a better job of being President. My employers have been very supportive and have been happy to see someone involved in national policy in an important area; my business manager, Eileen, who has kept me organised and now knows more about the BGS than I do; my colleagues who have been great, very understanding regarding my frequent absences and always a good sounding board for ideas. Finally, thank you to my long suffering wife, Margaret, who has got used to me shuttling up and down to London and elsewhere and has always been ready with a calming word when things were difficult. The role of BGS President has been the highlight of my career so far and I am not sure that I entirely agree with Martin Van Buren that, "As to the Presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it," …perhaps only 50%.

Paul Knight

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