In March 2020, as the potentially devastating impact of Covid-19 on the NHS became clear, the Royal Society of Medicine moved swiftly to produce a series of webinars to provide essential medical education about this new disease for health workers caring for patients on the frontline.
Launched on 2 April with a broadcast featuring palliative care specialist and acclaimed writer Dr Rachel Clarke, the RSM Covid-19 Series webinars have reached over 60,000 healthcare workers and others seeking to learn from the expert clinicians and decision makers invited by the RSM to contribute.
For journalists, whose job it is to explain the disease and its implications to the wider public, the webinars have proved essential viewing. As one national health policy editor wrote: “I’m a fan of the YouTube show, which is developing something of a cult following.”
Their stories, sharing the experience and expert knowledge presented in the webinars, have resulted in 700 press mentions for the Royal Society of Medicine across the UK and beyond.
Broadcasting twice-weekly, each webinar features one or more experts contributing to an insightful and probing conversation about a particular challenge Covid-19 is presenting to healthcare workers, leaders and the public.
Several webinars in particular have attracted widespread media coverage.
On 21 April Professor Trisha Greenhalgh engaged in a robust conversation about facemasks for the public with RSM President Professor Sir Simon Wessely. With facemasks the focus of intense debate at the time, people were looking for guidance on whether they should or should not wear face coverings when out and about. Prof Greenhalgh’s support for a voluntary approach to wearing homemade face coverings, and her quick guide on how to make your own mask, resulted in a flurry of DIY masks ‘could help wipe out Covid-19’ headlines.
When Professor Charles Knight joined Professor Roger Kirby, RSM President-Elect, for the 28 April webinar, the topic was the rapid creation of the Nightingale Hospitals, developed to care exclusively for COVID-19 patients. Seconded as Chief Executive of the London Nightingale Hospital, Prof Knight talked of the need for permanently increased intensive care capacity in London and the impact that COVID-19 would have on the NHS as a whole. The Independent, Health Service Journal, The Times, The Daily Mail and the Daily Express all ran stories picking up on what he had to say.
The vexed topics of travel quarantines and when children could return to school were under the microscope when Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, was the guest for the 13 May broadcast, generating headlines across local UK media.
The Evening Standard, The Independent, and the Press Association all picked up on comments made by Professor Robin Shattock during the 9 June webinar about vaccine development strategies for the virus. The coverage continued when Prof Shattock’s team at Imperial College London announced that the vaccine they were developing was about to be tested in human trials.
This ground-breaking webinar programme, which represents the very essence of the RSM’s mission to advance health, through education and innovation, continues to make an impact among health professionals and the public as the media seeks out and shares essential knowledge and expertise about Covid-19.