29 November 2022

Another monthly message, another Health Secretary.  We seem to be changing leadership almost as frequently as I change my socks. This latest one looks somewhat familiar having briefly passed through the role earlier this year. In his recent speech to NHS Providers, Steve Barclay stated his wish to focus on the workforce. The Chancellor in his recent statement has committed to a thorough assessment of NHS and social care staffing requirements.  Amanda Pritchard the NHS CEO has made the sensible suggestion that we should have OBR-style staffing forecasts to ensure proposals are realistic.  Finally, an outbreak of mature leadership? BSH joined forces with the Royal College of Physicians along with over 100 healthcare organisations as part of the Strength in Numbers campaign that lobbied the Government and contributed to the growing pressure to sort this mess out. I sincerely hope that this will now lead to the development of a meaningful workforce plan. However, there are nagging concerns; one is affordability and secondly the inevitable lag time from plan to execution. I hope to share more information with you next month on our own targeted piece of research on the state of the haematology workforce.

NHS Clinical research too is foundering. I am sure many are familiar with the difficulties getting trials up and running in our Trusts. It seems a Sisyphean task and it will come as no surprise that the time taken to go from regulatory approval to first trial patient entry has extended significantly over recent times. With the exception of the remarkable success of COVID intervention trials, drug trial recruitment declined markedly in the pandemic and has been slower to recover in the UK than other comparable nations. I was saddened to see the NCRI reporting that patient access to clinical trials (not just haematology) has declined by 44% since 2018. Against the backdrop poor staffing and growing waiting lists, this aspect of healthcare is easy to overlook, but haematology patients have benefitted from early access to new therapies in clinical trials for many years and we need to see this trend reversed.

But has the public fallen out of love with the NHS?

This question was posed at a recent Kings Fund Conference attended by BSH staff. The answer it seems, despite the lowest levels of satisfaction for decades, is an emphatic…no. There remains strong public support for the current NHS model and sympathy for the workforce crisis we are enduring…. on the proviso that the whole system will eventually work better. It’s the continued public support that gives me the most hope that this government or the next one will be unable to ignore the problems in our health service any longer. We need to be careful in our considerations of alternative models of health care in the UK and avoid throwing the baby out with the proverbial bath water.

On a brighter note, I was discussing the progress of our Early Careers Forum (ECF) with its Chair, Dr Mai Khalifa. This forum represents a complete cross-section of the MDT and has been working on three great projects;

  • Mentoring scheme:a platform matching members and mentees. This could be for members early in their career or embracing a new career milestone or even taking on new roles.
  • Undergraduate Achievement Award & Early Careers Award: Two separate awards directed for non-academic achievement e.g., participation in QIP, service development, education, leadership role, workforce rearrangement ideas.
  • Abstract writing and Grant application: Building an online resource to be added to the BSH website which will support students and early career healthcare professionals for their first abstract submission/Grant applications.

I’d like to commend the ECF for its efforts and enthusiasm and hope we see these projects reach fruition in the very near future.

Finally, nominations for the BSH board of trustees will open on 29 November. We have four roles available on our board; Secretary and three Ordinary Trustees.  We are looking for trustees from any haematology background, all we ask is that you are a member.

For the role of secretary, the candidate must have served as chair of one of our committees or be on our board of trustees.  Becoming part of our trustee board is a rewarding experience which helps shape the future of BSH.

A few words of encouragement from our current secretary Dr Jim Seale:

“Committee work had never appealed to me much but, I have to say, this role has made a huge difference to my outlook in the last few years. On the face of it, it seems like you’re volunteering for yet  more ‘admin’, true in a sense but it’s so different to what we’re generally used to in the NHS that you’ll actually find yourself re-energised. Our specialty has some very challenging times ahead and a senior role in an organsiation that is increasingly engaged in finding solutions to these is an exciting opportunity.”

 For guidance and to apply click here