29 February 2024

Improving lives in the haematology community.

That’s the ambitious aim of our next three-year strategy, which will launch in March.

As ever, there was much discussion about the title. A key point of debate is, “Where do patients fit into this?” After all, they’re the reason we work as clinical or laboratory professionals.

The BSH exists predominantly to serve its membership and, as such, plays an indirect but crucial role in the quality of diagnostics and patient care. Our guidelines and education work have been the core of the Society’s work for many years, but the world in which we operate is changing.

I imagine all would agree the threats we see to patient care and member wellbeing are not for the want of education and guidance alone. It’s for want of staffing, access to drugs, and better research opportunities, amongst other things.

So, if the BSH truly wants to punch above its current weight, we need the connections, finance and infrastructure to support this aim. Our strategy, therefore, succeeds or fails on the Society’s ability to build an infrastructure to support volunteers, Special Interest Groups, Guidelines, and work programmes. To do this, we need to diversify income and build strong strategic partnerships with other specialist societies, colleges, charities and, dare I say it, industry.

I hope you approve of the ambition. We’ll continue to develop all the core activities around the Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM), education, guidance and member support. But we now need to look towards a difficult future for UK haematology services and try to play our part in maintaining haematology as the high-quality, stimulating, complex and rewarding specialty we know it to be.

Reading the paragraph above, I wonder whether I’ve developed grandiose tendencies during my tenure as BSH President. However, the strategy was developed after consultation with the Board and staff, lay representatives and members, so it represents a shared concern for the future and a desire to try and be a positive influence.

As if to knock me immediately from my soap box, I see the promised doubling of new medical school places (and medical training provision in the regions poorly served by our current set-up) have been quietly scaled back to less than a quarter of the anticipated figure for the coming year.

The Department of Health and Social Care has issued a rebuttal explaining the expansion plans remain in place, but the expansion will not be linear. Let’s hope this is true.

I was pleased to see legislation is now in place for the regulation of physician associates (PAs). They are now an important part of many haematology departments, as are advanced nurse practitioners and prescribing pharmacists, all involved in work previously delivered by medical staff.

I cannot help but feel that much of this controversy could have been avoided by better upfront planning. PAs made their first appearance in UK healthcare as far back as 2003, and universities have offered PA diploma courses for many years. So, why has this regulation taken 20 years?

On the bright side, thank you for your engagement with the ongoing workforce project. We received almost 600 wellbeing surveys, and we anticipate centre-specific workforce data from 90 Trusts. That is a 60% response rate, and our colleagues at LSBU assure us it’s enough to make the modelling robust. I hope we’ll be able to share preliminary results from the study at the ASM in April.

We are now in the process of studying the emotional burden of haematology work using validated tools. Our BSH Workforce fellows are working with laboratory and clinical staff to define and quantify liaison haematology.

In the next phase, we’ll gather examples of novel workforce solutions.

Our call for a new Trustee has yielded a strong field of contenders such that an election will be held shortly. You will be sent details by email on 4 March 2024. Please use your vote to support your favoured candidate.