2020 Annual Review: President’s statement

Professor Ravi Mahajan

"Ensuring the College remained visible to our members, policy makers, politicians and the general public as we navigated our way through the pandemic was of utmost importance."

As I write this, the world is marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. I still remain saddened that the world’s health systems are in turmoil and the human suffering continues. But, your College is as strong as its membership and throughout this 2020 Annual Review, I am pleased to demonstrate just how strong we have remained in support of you and the specialty we are, so dearly connected to.

In many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the brilliance, ingenuity and resilience of healthcare workers and clinical researchers, who have worked hand-in-hand with public servants across the globe to do all they can to protect, care and support our patients, friends and families through these dark times.

I am proud of the way the College’s staff and volunteers worked together to support our members during these challenging times.

Endless stories of self-sacrifice, dedication, and loss have washed over us all, leaving some of us numb and in pain. It is therefore important to remember those we have lost, such as Dr Krishnan Subramanian. While our College and Faculties do not carry the scars to the extent that some other medical specialties do, our thoughts remain with those families, friends and colleagues who have lost loved ones.

The work of anaesthetists and intensivists since January 2020 is nothing short of miraculous. As an anaesthetist, I know all too well that many of us don’t seek out the spotlight, preferring instead to quietly do our work and reject public labels such as ‘heroes’. But I am now going to break with this tradition and state how unreservedly proud and humbled I am by every single member of this College and our Faculties.

Not only have you bravely re-skilled to work face-to-face with COVID-19 patients in the ICU; but anaesthetists in training have flexed to cope with the inevitable disruption of your training and examinations; anaesthetic researchers have seen your projects delayed; and we’ve all hoped we haven’t brought this dreadful virus back to our families.

During the first surge of this pandemic I was very much at the forefront, working with colleagues to fight the virus, during the second surge, I worked in COVID-light areas. I can sympathise with those of you who have also needed to shield to protect yourselves and your families. For some, feelings of guilt of not being at your places of work for your patients or your colleagues continue to be painful. But know this – you have already given so much, and you will do so in the future.

College support

I am also proud of how the College’s staff and volunteers worked together to support our members during these challenging times. As our Chief Executive Jono Brüün outlines in this report, the College worked well to quickly and expertly pivot our training, examinations and events from face-to-face to remote settings. Yes, we had teething problems at first with new and unfamiliar IT systems which needed to be implemented at pace, but we quickly rose to the challenge, resolved the issues and continued enhancing our services to you. I thank you all for the patience and understanding you showed towards your College while we worked through those situations.

To our volunteers – including our retired examiners who so kindly gave of their time yet again in support of the College when it was most needed – thank you. To our staff, who have all continued to work so diligently and professionally from home – some in very difficult circumstances – we could not have done this without you.

Members of the College Council and Board of Trustees also played their part during 2020. In addition to their heavy COVID-19 workloads and understandable family priorities, they have all given their time to support the College and its members. The restructuring of our training, examinations and events; managing on-going research programmes; developing of policy, clinical guidance and patient information; advising on digital enhancement and College governance have all continued during this time. Our Council has yet again proved to be the strong force the College has needed to lead us through this challenging year.

Communications, public awareness and advocacy

Ensuring the College remained visible to our members, policy makers, politicians and the general public as we navigated our way through the pandemic was of utmost importance.

Due to the critical role anaesthetists and intensivists have played in the pandemic, our two specialties were thrust to the forefront of the global media and general public’s attention. The College ably met the challenge of ensuring our two specialties were front-and-centre of local, regional and international print and broadcast interviews and advocated for the specialties and members in discussions with policy makers and parliamentarians. Through this work we have championed our members, shared clinical guidance, clarified inconsistencies, corrected inaccurate perceptions, and raised the profile of the College, the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine and our two specialties.

The speed by which our staff and media spokespeople across the four nations of the UK were able to deliver accurate and consistent messaging, and the outcomes of our advocacy work are to be commended.

Looking to the future

While 2020 will be forever defined as the year the world was put on hold, the College will not stand still.

Looking towards 2021 and 2022, we have a new strategy to develop and deliver on your behalf. We have ambitious and demanding operational plans to implement. We are future-focused and know what needs to be done to support, develop and grow our specialties, and to support our membership, and their patients.

Workforce, wellbeing, equality, diversity and inclusion are just some of the key areas your College will deliver against in 2021. With your input and support I look forward to working with you all on these and other projects in my third and final year as President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists.

Ravi Mahajan signature

Professor Ravi Mahajan