2020 Annual Review: Chief Executive’s statement

2020 was a year in which the College, its fellows and members, were tested like no other. I am very pleased to report that we have been able to rise to that challenge, to adapt and evolve to continue to support our specialty, and to emerge stronger from the pandemic.

On taking up my new post as chief executive in January 2020, I was immediately struck by the extent to which my predecessors - including Sharon Drake, who did such a sterling job maintaining the College’s forward momentum as interim CEO - had left the College in such a strong position for me to steward in the coming years. The senior management team, the Council and I were focused on a schedule of work that would see the College do more to engage at both a regional and global level, to renew our governance, and strengthen some of our operational capabilities, and we were looking forward to making a start on that ambitious programme of work.

However, as the initial wave of the pandemic crept closer to the College in February, our members began to recognise the significant role the specialty, and therefore the College, would play in the fight against COVID-19, and reacted accordingly. Whilst our members focused their attention on the fight against the pandemic, the College pivoted to support them and the specialty, and paused on some of our other plans. It is remarkable to me that during this period and throughout the year, when so much was happening in the clinical environment, our officers and Council were as committed to the daily needs of the College as ever.

From Churchill House to home

In March, we shuttered the College building – Churchill House – and asked our staff to work from home. Whilst we closed the building, I, along with the entire senior management team wanted to ensure that the College remained very much open for business, virtually supporting our fellows and members through this difficult period. The professionalism, ingenuity, and fortitude that I witnessed from the staff throughout this time has been phenomenal, and I thank them all for their efforts. Working against a backdrop of COVID-19 meant that teams had to adapt to new working practices with no break in service and with a stronger emphasis on technology to ensure that nothing was lost. The team have really risen to that challenge.

Our calendar of in-person events ceased as soon as we closed our physical College doors. However, we met this challenge head on by accelerating our aspirations for increased digitisation of our courses and events, allowing participants to benefit from an enriched and informative experience despite the obstacles.

We also made the decision to conduct our exams online and achieved this goal in around six weeks – a mammoth technological and administrative feat by everyone involved. I am gratified by what we have been able to deliver in such a short period. We also ensured that we met the urgent need for up-to-date national clinical information, guidance and resources to better understand and manage COVID-19, by developing the joint anaesthesia and ICM COVID-19 Guidance Hub from concept to launch in less than two weeks.

Working against a backdrop of COVID-19 meant that teams had to adapt to new working practices with no break in service.

Equality, inclusion and wellbeing in anaesthesia

Amid the chaos presented by the pandemic, the College was still able to react to one of the year’s other major seismic shifts. The murder of George Floyd in the United States rightly caused outrage across the world, leading to a groundswell of support from across all sections of society for greater action to address equality, diversity and inclusion. We at the College are no different, and we sought to address our own challenges in accurately reflecting and representing the diversity of our fellows, members and staff, and recognising that success in this endeavour will be critical to the organisation’s relevance in the coming years. We have begun to conduct research into equality and inclusion in our specialty and at the College. The work is complex and will take time to deliver, but we are committed to it, and look forward to updating you in 2021.

Another key theme throughout this difficult year was wellbeing, and this continues to be a priority topic for the College in 2021. Through a number of membership surveys we listened to our fellows and members, to better understand issues of welfare and morale, and then advocated on their behalf. We are also continuing to find ways of supporting the College’s staff as they adapt to new ways of working. 

Everything that the College has achieved in 2020 was because of the commitment of staff working in tandem with clinicians, volunteers, partner organisations, our Council and our Board of Trustees, to find ways to best serve our members in these complex times. I know we have not been able to get everything right, but the effort and the will is there and I, alongside the whole of the College staff team, our trustees, officers and Council members, will continue to work with diligence, imagination and care to deliver the needs of our membership long into the future.

Jono Brüün

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