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President's column

It was a great delight to meet Kate Granger and her husband, Chris, at the Manchester BGS Scientific meeting.

It was even better to be able to present her with the President’s Medal, an award that had been unanimously agreed by the Trustees to recognise Kate’s efforts in improving healthcare and in particular her “hello my name is” campaign. Kate is a final year trainee in geriatric medicine whose story will be known to many of you. Whilst holidaying in California two and half years ago she became unwell and a rare form of unfortunately terminal sarcoma was discovered. Ever since then Kate has put lots of effort, not just into completing her training, but also tweeting on her experiences. More of this in the Honorary Secretary’s column. She and Chris are an inspiration to us all and it was a pleasure to recognise the achievements of one of our own. Kate’s unstinting commitment and energy in the face of adversity is nothing short of amazing.

Recently I attended a meeting at the Royal College of Surgeons, Lincoln’s Inn Fields to talk about the mapping and grouping of services into a proposed framework for accreditation of services. This comes out of an initiative by the RCS, Royal College of Psychiatrists and Royal College of Physicians London, to try to ensure that any accreditation of service outputs meet certain parameters. These would then feed in to the current New Wave inspections of Trusts by the Clinical Quality Commission. As a result, the current remit is England only. Unsurprisingly, they couldn’t quite see where to compartmentalise older people and had decided “the elderly” (people presumably) were synonymous with “the frail” (also people presumably). The entire discussion was a touch confused and I am not certain how it will go forward at present. As members will remember, Gill Turner, VP Clinical Quality, was exploring, with others, the possibility of not only standards but also service accreditation.

Dining in august company

On May Day I had the pleasure of hosting the biennial past Presidents’ lunch. Although this was a very convivial affair it was a little bit daunting (even for me) to have to explain to those that have “been there, seen that and bought the tee shirt” what the BGS strategy for the future is. Hopefully I passed muster although I may need to wait until the next meeting when I am a past President to find out. The rest of you should shortly be able to see our forward strategy once it is signed off by the Trustees in May and thereafter published on the website.

Media - good and bad

Two recent television programmes; “Protecting our Parents, which featured geriatrician, Dr Peter Wallace and his colleagues at Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital, and the Panorama programme “Behind Closed Doorshave caused quite a stir in the media recently. The first was a thoughtful and considered approach to the difficulties we face as geriatricians every day and the second was a more sensationalist exposé of poor care in nursing homes. To some extent they both made for uncomfortable viewing. I know many of my colleagues find the Panorama type programmes somewhat unhelpful. There is a tendency to represent older people as always dependent and “a problem” rather than celebrate the lifestyle of many older people. Fabulous Fashionistas would be a good contrast. We chose to use the media coverage of the Panorama programme to communicate with Health Ministers and regulators about our initiatives in the area of nursing home care. My letter is on our website and a superb blog by David Oliver on the BMJ blog is certainly worth a read. We have already had some feedback from the regulators in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland and we will keep you posted as to further developments.

Vox Populi Vox Dei

Around a decade ago, the BGS President was chosen by what was known as the BGS Council (around forty members representing various parts of the country). In the early noughties, and in the interests of democracy, the Council magnanimously decided to open the process up to the whole membership. We are now in the process of electing our next President Elect, with two excellent candidates in Eileen Burns and Jim George. The highest voter turnout we have had to date, is 18.5 per cent. I hope we can improve on this in 2014. Please cast your vote!!

Paul Knight

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