I shall start and finish this blog by paying tribute to not just the vital frontline Surgeons who are working under huge duress dealing with the ongoing crisis with COVID-19, but also every single NHS worker who face the difficulties of the working environment day in day out. All of us are deeply grateful.
This week we have heard of more tragic deaths to healthcare workers including frontline nursing staff. We have also heard of further losses in the fellowship of Surgery. In addition, the losses of consultant ENT surgeon Mr Amged El Hawrani and Dr Adil El Tayar last week. We have now heard the news of the passing of Mr Jitendra Rathod a Cardiothoracic surgeon from Cardiff. I pass on my sincere sympathy to the families, friends and colleagues of these valued Surgeons at this terrible time. Every death encountered during this dreadful pandemic is a tragedy to all, but the family of our College and the loss of people we know and have worked with, brings it so much closer to home. On behalf of all of our Members and Fellows our thoughts are with you.
Tonight, at 8 o’clock the whole of the United Kingdom will pay tribute to all key workers helping those affected by the virus on behalf of all of us. The selflessness, the dedication, the kindness and the care shines through at times like these and makes us very proud despite the sadness of our losses.
I need to emphasise particularly at this time of loss, that your College is doing everything possible to do the right thing. To speak up for you, voice your concerns and to make things better. Standing up and being counted on the issue of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was absolutely essential and working with Public Health England (PHE) as well as the four Home Nation Governments. We have helped to bring about an improvement in the guidance and a higher profile to the importance of supply and distribution of PPE.
Whilst I am acutely aware that PPE distribution and delivery has still not been universal, it has certainly improved. On account of reports of deficiencies, we have strongly supported the Doctors Association UK’s app which helps identify those areas of serious depletion. This has already made a difference together with the hotline provided at NHS England.
The other issue that we have been lobbying the four Home Nation Government bodies on is the testing of our front-line workers and surgical teams. This is an area of considerable concern but the Secretary of State from the Westminster Government has committed to increasing testing to one hundred thousand a day by the end of this month. It appears an ambitious target but it is exactly what we need.
On a lighter note, our hotel Ten Hill Place has taken well over 600 bookings from healthcare workers at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Western General Hospital and The Royal Hospital for Sick Children. These vary from high-level managers and clinicians to all manner of healthcare workers. They have fed back to me and to our hotel about the deep gratitude they feel to our tireless workers in Surgeons Quarter looking after, keeping them safe and keeping them fed and watered. Yes, we are proud of our NHS key workers but we are equally proud of the selfless determination to deliver support for them by our staff.
The number of webinars we have delivered over recent weeks has increased significantly to meet the demand for information on coping with COVID-19. We have covered a myriad of topics with our most senior Fellows who can share their experience and answer any difficult questions for those working on the front line. They have been a huge success with registrations of over 1300 and well over 600 logging in on the night with questions and listening to answers from our team. I’m grateful not to not just our Council Members but our ordinary members and fellows who contribute their expertise to provide information and support to all of us. The Orthopaedic and Head and Neck webinar this week was very well attended and well received and my thanks go to the great chairmanship of Janet Wilson and the expertise of Phil Turner, Roger Currie and Laura Warner.
Next week we address the difficult subject of how to continue training in this COVID-19 environment. This is extremely difficult this year and poses many problems and I’m delighted to say we have Professor Rowan Parks, Tim Graham and David Riding to deliver on this subject. They are three absolute experts who are right up to date with what the Four Nation statutory bodies are planning to deliver to address this vexed issue. I would also like to thank David Riding, Chair of the Trainees Committee for encouraging the Committee to collect and collate a huge amount of published information on dealing with COVID-19. This information is all now available on our website here.
We are really concerned for our future doctors and surgeons who have had their medical studies curtailed during the crisis. We are therefore delivering focused webinars for medical students to provide up-to-date information about how they can help and also teaching components to help them continue with their medical education. I am indebted to Mike Silva from Oxford and Raaj Praseedon from Cambridge University for their energy, enthusiasm and delivery. We have given access to our webinars to all 4th and 5th Year medical students at Cambridge University to support them at this difficult time.
As Easter approaches many of our Members and Fellows will not see the long weekend that we have become used to. We think of you all over this weekend and simply say at this time it is kindness, consideration, care and protection that we must concentrate on because it is those qualities that will continue to protect our NHS and save so many lives over these coming weeks. Thank you to all of you and in particular those who have retired but have come back to support the NHS that we have worked for and loved.
Thank you to everyone for working for each other.
Professor S Michael Griffin OBE PRCSEd MD FFSTEd FRCS(Eng)FRCP&SGlas Hon) FRCSI(Hon)FCSHK FCSSL(Hon), Professor of Surgery, President Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh