BGS Rising Star Series: Finding a future Rising Star

18 October 2022

Ruth Law is Deputy Honorary Secretary of the BGS. She is a Consultant in Integrated Geriatric Medicine and Clinical Lead for Care of Older People at Whittington Health NHS Trust. She was awarded the BGS Rising Star Award for Clinical Quality in 2018.

In 2015 I was appointed to my first consultant job and given the title of ‘Integrated Geriatrician’ with the rather broad remit of ‘supporting the community.’ I knew I wanted to provide equity of access to specialist geriatric services for those older people who struggled to receive it. Care homes, so often overlooked and undervalued, seemed the perfect place to start. Three years later, having established a flourishing care homes service, inputted into NHS England winter planning for care homes and presented our work at the launch of the NHS Five Year forward view, I was awarded The British Geriatrics Society’s Rising Star Award for Clinical Quality. The award gave me the confidence to keep pushing forward in advocating for the often vulnerable patient group we represent.

I have been asked by trainees if it is ‘normal’ to achieve this so quickly. I usually reply that I had some luck, some excellent colleagues who trusted me, and the type of naïve optimism because I was new to the position that is hard to preserve as an NHS consultant. I believed strongly in the value of what we wanted to do, and feedback from patients, carers and staff confirmed that, so I did not give up. Fast forward six years to the growing investment in care homes medicine, the renewed academic interest and the political spotlight on this population and I now realise the importance of rigorously pursuing what you know to be correct. Naïve optimism will start you off, but determination is needed to drive through quality change. As geriatricians we need to be flexible in our approach to solving the many challenges in service delivery, but tenacious in our persistence to achieve change. Receiving the award validated our work and reinforced the need to trust my judgement and instincts as a clinician. It has given me the confidence and connections to develop services, develop myself and develop other people in my team.

Developing new services for and with older people is exciting and rewarding. Following quality improvement principles and involving the whole MDT in these interdisciplinary projects means that changes are quickly embedded. Learning from our care homes experience has allowed us to develop three further big ideas within our frailty services, in community geriatrics and interface working. On a personal level I have developed skills as a systems leader, and through my portfolio have been selected for schemes such as ‘Emerging Women Leaders’ at The Royal College of Physicians. I have found that the more you do, the more people you meet and so I have become part of several networks and mentoring schemes as a result of these opportunities. With new confidence and new connections, I have also felt able to take on new challenges- most recently as Deputy Honorary Secretary of the British Geriatrics Society and as a censor at the Royal College of Physicians, London.

Finally, and most importantly the award has given me the chance to develop other people in my team, through mentoring and signposting them to opportunities. Though much less naïve, I remain an optimist. The great thing about geriatric medicine is that I work with a whole constellation of stars every day. It is a privilege to help people take the next steps in their careers. I have no doubt that a future ‘Rising Star’ is somewhere amongst them.


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