BGS President addresses members as COVID-19 second wave takes hold

06 November 2020

BGS President, Professor Tahir Masud, has recorded a supportive video message to members of the BGS as they enter an exceptionally difficult period, managing COVID-19 in older people alongside their ongoing care for older people. 

In the message, Professor Masud says:
"I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to you all - the BGS membership - at this challenging time as winter approaches.
"The second peak of the COVID-19 pandemic has started and I know that many of you, in your local areas, will be engaged in the battle against the virus.
"I want you all to know that the BGS is here to support you in any way we can. I also want to reassure you that the BGS is fully engaged in monitoring the situation and that over the last few months we have been active in many areas.
"COVID-19 has disproportionately affected older people and it is essential that the BGS’s voice is heard during this time. The pandemic has given us opportunities to influence such as regular meetings with officials from NHS England including the National Clinical Director for Older People.
"Our members have been on the forefront of implementing changes to their services during the pandemic to ensure that the patients we all care for continue to have access to the best care. We have collected examples of these changes to practice from both England and Northern Ireland and submitted them to the respective Governments.
"During the pandemic we have published 16 separate pieces of guidance aimed at helping our members to care for their patients in these challenging circumstances. This has included advice on managing delirium in patients with COVID, managing medication in COVID patients and really importantly managing the pandemic in care homes, which has been viewed 150,000 times. Thank you in particular to those members who have stepped up to contribute to guidance to help their colleagues during this time.
"Older people in care homes have been particularly badly hit by the pandemic and care home staff have been under immense pressure. Many of our members have been going above and beyond to provide additional support to their local care homes and at BGS, we have sought to ensure that lessons are learnt from the care home experience. We brought together clinicians from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland to discuss areas of commonality and difference and to share experiences as we move forward into the second wave.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed and we learn more about the long term impact of the virus, the need for rehabilitation for people who have had COVID, and for older people who have deconditioned during lockdown, has become evident. In response to this, BGS has formed the Rehabilitation Group who will address the issues surrounding rehabilitation and loss of function as a result of the pandemic.
"We remain concerned about the availability of adequate PPE and ensuring that older people are not denied critical care treatment based simply on the grounds of age. As the second wave progresses we will continue to monitor this to ensure that older patients get the treatment they deserve and that the healthcare professionals caring for them have everything they need to do their jobs.
"Although our efforts over the past few months have focused on the pandemic we also continue to work on other important areas, many of which have become even more important throughout the pandemic.
"We have worked to influence the implementation of the Ageing Well Programme of the NHS Long Term Plan in England, particularly through ongoing membership of the NHSE Anticipatory Care Group and ensuring that our views were considered in the new GP contract.
"The pandemic has shone a light on the crisis in social care in England. We have continued to press for a sustainable solution, working in partnership with other members of the Health for Care coalition and speaking out about this issue when appropriate.
"Earlier this year we launched the guidance on End of life Care in Frailty. This resource has been viewed 23,000 times and covers issues such as advance care planning, law and ethics, and the management of common symptoms at the end of life.
"Management of frailty remains a key issue in the work of most BGS members and in July we launched a new Frailty Hub, a one stop shop for information, research and educational resources, providing useful context and signposting to essential material from the BGS, our journal Age and Ageing and external sources.
"We have previously been active in raising awareness of the important topic of loneliness and isolation in older people and this has become even more important during the lockdown. Late last year we published a position statement in conjunction with the Old Age Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and in July this year we held a webinar on this issue featuring speakers from the British Red Cross and the Royal Voluntary Service as well as healthcare professionals and Baroness Sally Greengross.
"I want to thank the dozens of BGS members and colleagues who have given up their valuable time to help deliver a lot of the work I have mentioned before and they should be justly proud of their efforts.
"I want to end on a really positive note. While 2020 has been a tough year for many, the work of the BGS has never been more important and our membership continues to grow. The BGS now has more than 4,300 members, of which around 600 are nurses and AHPs and nearly 160 who are GPs. It is great that our membership spans the four countries of the UK, and our national councils in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England are working hard to engage local members. We are also growing our social media profile and now have more than 25,000 followers on Twitter.
"Our steep learning curve on organising virtual events has been a great success with excellent feedback and I hope to see many of you at the Autumn Virtual BGS conference, which runs from November 25-27, but with content available to be viewed over the next 12 months. Do book now!
"So please look after yourselves and each other over the next few challenging months and do not hesitate to contact the BGS if you have any concerns or need help and support from your society."
Professor Tahir Masud
President, British Geriatrics Society