31 May 2024

The Annual Scientific Meeting – wow! What an opening for me as the next BSH President! Such energy and enthusiasm from the 1,864 people at the lively Liverpool venue alongside the Mersey.

It was BSH strategy in action – inspirational senior and junior members (our specialty will remain in good hands!); stimulating sessions showcasing tremendous advances in haematology; networking opportunities with each other, our exhibitors and charity sponsors; and collaborative sessions with the American Society for Haematology, European Haematology Association and the Royal College of Pathologists.

We awarded excellence for lifetime achievements, NIHR research and British Journal of Haematology publications. Interspersed throughout the conference were thought-provoking tales and talented creations from our patients. The conference party with 350 delegates, sparkling dancers and an acrobatic fire-eater epitomised the dynamism radiating during the three days.

Coming down from this excitement at the start of my two-year stint as President, I reflect on my career choices and how I came to be here, without aim or ambition but simply from a love of our vocation and the variety it offers. What a stroke of luck that my senior house officer rotation ended with a six-month post in haematology, inspiring me to continue into the registrar grade and, ultimately, as a consultant.

I value these years with such wide-ranging experiences: from busy multicultural Leicester, whose 2,000-bed NHS Trust serves not only as a tertiary and quaternary referral centre but, with no surrounding hospitals, also as an oversized, overstretched district general hospital rich in clinical pathology. To academic and thought-inspiring Oxford, where side-stepping into different realms of haematology has provided contrasting challenges. There has never been a dull moment!

I have also benefitted from witnessing the incredible advances in haematology over the years. We are a leading specialty for clinical trials, which have resulted in increased life expectancy across the board of haematological diseases. I was proud to relay examples of these achievements as an opening speaker at a recent 1,000-delegate congress of haematology patients, carers and NHS executives. The excitement of discovery we enjoy as haematologists contrasts starkly with that experienced by an old university friend I bumped into the other day. His chosen specialty was hand surgery. Well, at least surgical techniques have evolved...

With such enjoyment of our profession, it saddens me to hear of our demoralised workforce. I will continue the great work our former President, Josh Wright, started in understanding and remodelling workforce. He engaged the team from London South Bank University, world-leading researchers in this field, and I am delighted that he will continue his involvement in this strategic process.

Otherwise, I will miss my regular meetings with Josh, particularly his warmth and good humour. In my leaving speech to him, the adjective that came to mind was “common”: common sense, common decency and a common purpose.

I aim to continue Josh’s ambitions to address health inequalities and support multiculturalism, and I look forward to the Zambia project developments later this year. As the world shrinks, UK haematology can play a significant role in raising health standards in low- and middle-income countries as well as poorer communities in our own country. Our guidelines alone achieve impressive numbers of worldwide downloads.

I also acknowledge the luminary presidents who came before Josh and hope to carry forward their ideas and aspirations: Adele Fielding, whose support for members was evident throughout the COVID years, and Cheng-Hock Toh, whose inclusive approach has integrated UK haematology widely across Europe and other medical specialties within the UK, raising awareness that haematology contributes to almost every faculty of medicine.

I am mindful of my place as a short-term custodian in a constantly forward-moving organisation. And transient it will be, for two years will go quickly. My head is already spinning with excitement and ideas for the Society and our specialty. I will crystallise and develop these over the coming weeks, with the help of our Chief Executive Officer, Carol Bewick; my fellow officers, John Ashcroft, Guy Pratt and Huw Roswell; the senior leadership team; our 300 volunteers and the wider team involved with the BSH.

I feel honoured to represent our 3,000 members. Thank you for voting for me. I will do my very best for you all.