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President's update: March 2019

It’s not been an easy few months at the RSM, as you may have noticed. We went through a period of change last year – changes at the top, which in turn impacted throughout the organisation. We lost our Chief Executive, and although I am pleased to say that Nigel Collett stepped up to the plate and steadied the ship, if I am allowed to mix my metaphors, it hasn’t been entirely plain sailing, and some of you will have noticed gaps in the service when it comes to our meetings.

At the same time, we have also gone through something that instils a sense of dread in anyone working in the NHS – a major IT change. Just a few weeks ago after a long period of preparation we launched a long overdue major upgrade of our website in conjunction with a new customer database (CRM). In the digital age that we live in, we all know that these changes can have a catastrophic impact. Just ask Paul Pester – the ex CEO of TSB.

However, I think we can say that we have definitely avoided the type of disaster that brought TSB to its knees, nor have we pulled out the wrong plug – the explanation for the costly weekend shut down that paralysed British Airways a couple of years ago – I remember it well, being trapped in Prague for three days. Yes, there are worse places to be, but it still caused mayhem.

In the digital age that we live in, we all know that these changes can have a catastrophic impact.

There have been problems, true. We took a decision to launch with 95% of the functionality in place, and I have received some complaints about the missing 5%, which we are still working on. Some services that were available have changed or been withdrawn. Some have become harder to find in the new website, but I am convinced that the considerable improvement in event management, bookings and customer relations will soon repay the investment. And overall, touch wood and initiate any other superstition, it’s gone reasonably well, and most of our members are reporting improvements

None of that happened by application of pixie dust, but instead from an awful lot of hard work from an awful lot of people. But I want to pay tribute above all to Janice Liverseidge, who oversaw the process, together with Mark Johnstone and the RSM project team. Janice, as many of you know will be retiring soon, although you may encounter her in her new incarnation as a London tour guide. But before we even move into her more formal leaving celebration, this is a good time to congratulate her for not only delivering the IT change on time, and with the help of Finance to budget (words one rarely says for any complex project), but to do so with impeccable cheerfulness and good humour (words one never says when dealing with IT changes).

Likewise, I am also pleased to report that our period of uncertainty in the higher echelons of management is also coming to an end.  After a wide search and a remarkably competitive interview process – something which was rather gratifying, showing that leading the RSM remains a glittering prize sought by many – we have a new Chief Executive. Michelle Acton, who has transformed the fortunes of the charity Fight For Sight, will be joining us at the end of May.  More from her anon.

And finally, I also must apologise for a period of radio silence when it comes to communications from me. Probably none of you even noticed, but nevertheless I am aware that I have been guilty of dereliction of writing duty. The second half of last year was for me almost totally occupied by delivering the review of the Mental Health Act that I had been asked to do by the prime minister. We managed to do that in a year, which for those of you who know anything about reviews of mental health legislation around the world, means we now hold the British, Commonwealth, European, Olympic and World records for the process, but it was a damn close run thing, to quote Wellington, and meant that for the latter half of the year I was doing little else. In true civil servant style, I was told that the job would take one and a half days a week – it ended up being one and a half days a day.  But even amidst the Brexit chaos paralysing any semblance of normal government business or sanity, it was “landed”, as we say in the world of independent reports, on time and to budget: Read the review, just like our IT project here.

So to celebrate I went skiing in the New Year. There is a statistic that says that skiers experience one serious ski injury for every 100 weeks of skiing. I worked out that the holiday was my 103rd week (I cheated a little by counting weekends as weeks). And it turns out that the statistic was accurate, as I managed to sustain a fairly serious injury. For those of you who like orthopaedic porn you can see the CT scan on my Twitter account, but it’s not for those of a nervous disposition. Anyway, normal service still has not been resumed, but at least this week I am able to type with two hands again. So to no one’s relief or pleasure, here’s my blog again.

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