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President’s column

So, here’s where I get off. As an ex-BGS secretary and editor of this newsletter a decade ago, and in my time more recently as BGS President-Elect and President, I’ve written many a column here.

But my time as BGS President formally ends at our AGM during the Glasgow Autumn meeting and the timing of the publication of the BGS Newsletter means this is my last column in a BGS officer role.

I should say right away,  that although we amateurs do help by soliciting and writing content, the unheralded heroine of the piece throughout my time with the Society has been Recia Atkins who does all the hard graft with the Newsletter and the website – with both going from strength to strength during my roles. She won’t like me praising her, but there it is. She’s a great colleague and has become a firm friend.

I’ve written plenty in previous editions about the BGS, the speciality, where we’ve come from and where we might be heading as well as an essay with Eileen Burns for the RCP ,Future Hospitals Journal on these very themes – setting out some of the existential challenges  and hard choices we face as a speciality. I won’t say much more on this here. I am using my final column to exercise the outgoing President’s prerogative to say something more personal.

I’ve done my best to set out a vision and template for joined-up services for older people – going far broader than the roles geriatricians play in my 2014 paper for the King’s Fund, Making health and care services fit for an ageing population.  In my weekly BMJ Acute Perspective column and my King’s Fund blogs I’ve done my best to make some key messages about healthcare of older people accessible to non-specialists and I have put plenty of content into other resources such as the HSJ Commission on the Care of Older People and the NHS Confederation Growing Old Together report. 

But there is a reason for fixed-term appointments to elected officer roles and my time is up.

Those that went before, those that come after
We all stand on the shoulders of others and going back to the Martin/Knight Presidencies and the appointment of Colin Nee as an experienced, excellent  CEO, we have made a gradual shift to an organisation which has a rolling operational plan and set of agreed strategic priorities. The organisation is not based on the priorities or personalities of individual presidents. It is a well-grooved machine into which senior officers can slot.

I am handing over to the very capable hands of Eileen Burns who is wise, respected and experienced and who has been an unfailingly supportive counsel and colleague. In a speciality with so many female registrars and consultants, though Eileen would never make a big thing of her gender, it is long overdue that we have another female president.

I am equally delighted to see Tahir Masud take over as President Elect. He and I have been friends and collaborators for twenty years or so, beginning with our joint involvement in the falls and bone health section. He is a respected clinician, academic researcher and educator and has played a range of key roles within the BGS – most recently, three years as Vice President for Education and Training. We are in safe hands – all the more so with such an excellent employed staff team running our events, publications, communications and policy and with two lay trustees in Susan Went and Caroline McInness adding so much value to the work of the board.

As for me, the BGS has given me so many friends, so many wonderful memories and been so important in the development of my own career. I am only fifty and intend to be a geriatrician for a good few years yet. I won’t be an ex-President who stays away from the meetings. Try to keep me away - though my local colleagues at the Royal Berks should now get first refusal as for the past four years they have had to accommodate the fact that my attendance at BGS events has been mandatory!

It would have been hard to go from being BGS Secretary, then National Clinical Director, followed by BGS President, to walk away from professional leadership roles but fortunately, I do have a new home to go to for my work beyond the wards – having taken over as Clinical Vice President of Royal College of Physicians London (RCP) in August – thirty specialities to consider now and so a new and steep learning curve for me.

Many of the big issues facing the RCP – around workforce, training, CPD, examinations, Future Hospitals, clinical quality, leadership and medical professionalism, as well as the future of “expert generalists” and integrated services are highly relevant to the BGS and its members – with geriatrics being the biggest speciality in the RCP family and most physicians of all specialties treating older people with frailty and multimorbidity. So I will still be working closely with the BGS, its members and officers.

The BGS itself? Our biggest challenge is ensuring that our three key income streams (Age and Ageing, our conferences and meetings and our membership) remain robust and that we are able to pursue our strategic objectives and run a broad range of activities on a small staff team that doesn’t outstrip the cost base, nor overwhelm them all with work.

The makeover of the website and the organisational rebranding, both of which gained momentum from our members services review will be unfolding after I have stood down but I will be watching with interest.

My final plea, with the BGS having been a huge part of my life since I joined as a 26 year old registrar is this. Please get involved! We need more people - including trainees, younger consultants, nurses, GPs, Psychiatrists and AHPs getting involved in the work of the Society. Our strength is in the expertise, networks and clinical credibility of our members and getting involved is “win/win” - you will get as much out of your involvement as the Society benefits.

Thanks to you all for putting up with me. It’s been a blast and as Paul Knight said, before me, the most fulfilling role I am ever likely to play in my professional career. I am a committed geriatrician and I can’t think of a better bunch of people to hang around with or to help lead.

Bye now.

David Oliver

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