27 August 2020

Something changed

As I write this, my 5th bulletin, I am the rotational attending consultant on our busy inpatient leukaemia service, a role I last played during the height of the pandemic in April. The wards are calm and thankfully COVID-free. Testing is readily available for patients, staff are routinely (voluntarily) tested. PPE is plentiful, and worn throughout the hospital by staff and visitors. Our treasured leukaemia clinical nurse specialist, R. is back from her secondment to ITU. Although by no means a fair exchange for R., our clinical team is once again allowed back into ITU, to help care for our sickest patients. I now feel confident telling patients that they can feel safe in the environment that my NHS Trust has created. By any criteria, five months into a pandemic, this should be judged a success… right? But my patients with blood disorders and their relatives who are not in my COVID-success universe reflect anger towards the team. As they observe the outside world getting a tenner off their meals and enjoying visits to the pub, limitations on hospital visits with their loved ones - which had previously been seen as a vital part of keeping everyone safe - now seem intolerable. Paranoia, suspicion and demands for daily telephone communications from the medical team, are a token, as if any reminder were needed, of the profound comfort of the routine, quotidian human contact that we have lost. Empathising with my patients in their isolation uncomfortably stirs my own feelings of flitting involuntarily between parallel universes. I think of my NHS Rainbow universe, where I skipped the regular queue at my favourite farmers market in favour of the NHS workers' queue with barely a tinge of guilt. The rainbow has now faded, such that I can barely recall seeing it. The “When we woke up that morning we had no way of knowing, that in a matter of hours we'd change the way we were going1 feeling is almost constant. It can make planning very difficult, especially when you are planning on behalf of others.

            This brings me to what the BSH is planning on behalf of our members. You may recall, in my first bulletin, I announced a survey; this is now under active construction. We are right now asking for volunteers among our members to take part in some of in-depth interviews, which will then feed into the design of our big online membership survey in the autumn. Please click here if you are interested in participating. It’s tremendously important to me and to all of the BSH board that we hear what you want from your BSH at this time. We want to be in the same universe as our members, so please speak up.

            I am delighted to let you know that instead of the cancelled BSH annual scientific meeting, we will be running our first virtual conference on 9-14 November, 2020. There will be a mixture of live and recorded content with educational talks and original research. As far as feasible, we will have themes for the day to encourage attendees to take at least some study leave time away from daily duties. For those who would struggle to take time off, we intend to offer most of our talks in the late afternoon and early evening. Tamara Everington and the Program Committee are working hard to develop a program that we hope will be of value to you.

I am also very pleased to announce that the first issue of eJHaem, an Open Access journal owned by Wiley and the British Society for Haematology, will soon be published. The journal accepts direct submissions as well as content that is “cascaded” from British Journal of Haematology (the Official Journal of the BSH) and American Journal of Hematology

             Finally, a topic dear to my heart; the BSH has agreed to partner with RCP in the Inequalities in Health Alliance, which is working on how the social determinants of health can be tackled through education, access to the medical profession, system design, practice, advocacy and partnerships.           


  1. Cocker, J. 1996. Something Changed. Pulp. On Different Class. Island Records.