2021 Annual Review: the voice of anaesthesia

Championing anaesthesia

The Communications and External Affairs Directorate played a crucial role in supporting our members during 2021. 

Dr Helgi Johannsson

and External Affairs Board

The College provides a powerful and collective voice for our Fellows and Members, their work, and the specialty amongst the public, government, the media and health stakeholders across the UK. The Communications and External Affairs Directorate played a crucial role in supporting our members during 2021. It was a year in which vaccinations helped the journey out of COVID-19 and our focus was firmly placed on helping support our members (especially anaesthetists in training) through this challenging time. In 2021, the Communications and External Affairs Directorate helped create the new College strategy. This five-year commitment will see an even greater emphasis given to improving the service we give to our members, and to representing their interests nationally.

We are committed to building a strong, supportive and inclusive membership and professional body. Our membership numbers continued to grow in 2021, with a combined membership of over 25,000 across the three specialties of anaesthesia, intensive care and pain medicine. With this in mind, we accelerated our communications to reach and engage all our members so that you feel supported in your training and careers. 

Our members at the heart of everything we do 

For 2021, our Communications team ensured that our share of voice within the media landscape was maintained, achieving 135 pieces of coverage throughout the year, amplifying our position on the elective surgery backlog, workforce pressures and COVID-19 vaccinations

During 2021 we also worked hard to understand better how our members feel about the benefits available to them and to demonstrate and deliver value for money, alongside a renewed focus on engagement. We conducted a survey of our Membership Engagement Panel to understand your thoughts on the current Bulletin and how we can improve it. We had 352 responses to this survey. We have started work to incorporate this feedback into our wider plans for the magazine’s format. 

We started work to redevelop the ACCS website and build your new online self-service portal, My RCoA

Our Membership Engagement team embedded the College’s Customer Relationship Management system launched at the end of 2020. It changes how we provide customer service and respond to the 16,000 enquiries received throughout the year in an effective but timely manner. Both teams worked extensively on building My RCoA, which was developed using feedback from our member surveys. We will be looking to add features over the coming years, encompassing further feedback. 

My RCoA launched in October 2021 making it – for the first time at the College – easier and quicker for you to manage the information we hold about you. 

With changes to our approach to customer service, we are looking forward to carrying out fresh engagement activities in 2022, bringing to life our new five-year commitment and values of the College

We remain committed to ensuring that our resources reach the many diverse communities of patients accessing the NHS.

Advocating on behalf of our members 

Last year saw the launch of Anaesthesia – fit for the future , our UK-wide influencing campaign through which we will set out a vision for ‘team anaesthesia’ and define the support it needs to deliver the best possible patient care beyond COVID-19.  

In this first year the focus of the campaign was twofold: campaigning for the expansion of the anaesthetic workforce and addressing the retention challenge. 

As part of this, we have built a solid evidence base of the factors affecting retention in anaesthesia.  

As the UK started to emerge from the most severe phase of the pandemic, we wanted to make sure that any learning from the way our members responded to the crisis was captured in our 10 lessons learnt from COVID-19 report.  

We have also taken our message directly to the NHS and governments around the UK. We have met with senior NHS figures and engaged with MPs.

All our work has fed into the development of our new strategy and puts us on solid ground to achieve our strategic goal of being the leading voice for our specialties among policymakers and the public, providing clear evidence, guidance and direction. 

The College is also the main supporter of the Centre for Perioperative Care (CPOC), which has been pushing the case to optimise the surgical pathway across the four nations of the UK.

During the year, CPOC published three major evidence reviews related to the impact of perioperative care on healthcare resource use, perceptions of perioperative care in the UK, and the case for multidisciplinary working to support surgical patients. We also issued guidance on how to implement Preoperative Assessment and Optimisation for Adult Surgery. 

We are heartened by the productive engagement from NHS England, and Scottish and Welsh Governments, and we believe we are closer than ever to seeing our perioperative care ambitions becoming a reality. We are also engaging with the CQC, the Professional Records Standards Body and Health Education England to develop evaluation frameworks and staffing so as to ensure that NHS bodies have the necessary workforce and incentives to put these practices in place. 

Creating and sharing valuable patient information   

COVID-19 has shown how important evidence-based information is for patients. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have managed to collaborate and engage with users and partners. We continue to offer high quality patient information resources by continuously reviewing existing and expanding the range and format of resources we offer as an accredited member of the PIF TICK accreditation scheme.  

In addition to updating many of our paediatric resources, we were particularly keen to improve our offer to children and young people by providing information in formats that better reflect the way children and young people consume information. To this end we have collaborated with the Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists to produce an animated version of our very popular Rees Bear has an anaesthetic story for young children, and two new videos for children eight years and over and teenagers. The films show what to expect when having an operation under anaesthesia, answering the most common questions that children and young people pose. 

We remain committed to ensuring that our resources reach the many diverse communities of patients accessing the NHS, and we have continued to build on our ever-expanding list of translated resources in the 20 most spoken languages in the UK.  

COVID-19 has changed the way healthcare professionals interact with patients, and we have seen an increase in online provision of patient information and online consultations. Conscious of this shift, we have produced resource sheets listing groups of  QR codes that allow access to our information, risk and Fitter Better Sooner resources, so that preoperative assessment staff can give patients easy and rapid access to our resources from their mobile devices. These can be sent to patients with surgical admission paperwork to allow them to prepare for their upcoming surgery. It also allows hospitals to avoid the routine printing of resources in line with our sustainable objectives.