As 2022 draws to a close, Royal Society of Medicine leaders share their thoughts on another momentous year in healthcare.
Other than Covid, what was the biggest issue in healthcare?
Dr Allyson Egan, President of the RSM Nephrology Section: “As kidney specialists, our biggest concern is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), which impacts approximately 850 million people worldwide, with resultant premature mortality, rising renal replacement therapy requirement and negative impact on quality of life. Education and innovative strategies for early CKD detection, biomarker, and imaging techniques for prognostic stratification, coupled with therapeutic intervention for prevention and treatment are paramount strategies to tackle this global healthcare need.”
Professor Roger Kirby, RSM President: “The biggest issue for UK healthcare in the last year has been the ever-lengthening waiting list which now stands at 7.1 million patients. This is becoming a major issue and putting a strain on healthcare teams around the country. The shortage of around 100,000 NHS staff, including both doctors and nurses, is not helping the situation.”
Professor Gillian Leng, RSM Dean of Education: “The biggest issue was catching up in the wake of the pandemic. The NHS has been dealing with a backlog of non-urgent procedures, patients waiting for cancer treatments and lack of capacity in core aspects of the service, particularly primary care.”
Professor Maggie Rae, RSM Council Trustee and President of the RSM Epidemiology and Public Health Section: “Health Inequalities and its impact on health was the biggest issue for me. The effects of poverty on health are far reaching and affect healthy life expectancy and physical and mental health. Health Inequalities is a key issue that the RSM wants to highlight.”
Which issue deserved more attention than it received?
AE: “As we emerge from the pandemic, the re-opening of services and established facilities for social interaction, such as day centres and clubs, needs further support to enable them to continue to facilitate connectivity for older people, and people living with rare diseases or special needs. In this way, promoting mobility, sociability, cognitive functionality, and longevity.”
RK: “Significant advances in cancer care, such as the use of immunotherapy in triple receptor negative breast cancer, which doesn’t always respond to more conventional chemotherapy. Immunotherapy has also transformed the prospects for patients with metastatic melanoma.”
GL: “Among all the criticism, staff have been working extremely hard to keep the health service running. This effort needs to be commended and recognised!”
MR: “Climate and health. The cost-of-living crises and turmoil on the political front, plus the war in Ukraine, have pushed climate and health down the priority list. We were very involved when COP 26 was held in Glasgow and this brought it centre stage for the UK. During COP 27 in Egypt we were less involved but the RSM and Faculty of Public Health Conference on 16 December will focus on climate and health and give it the priority it deserves.”
What was the most exciting innovation or development?
AE: “Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors and mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists (MRAs) as therapeutic agents for use in diabetic and non-diabetic populations, in addition to their role in CKD, is directional pioneering and underscores the importance of clinical trials. Education will play a pivotal role in discussing the advantages and real-word experience of newer classes of therapies.”
RK: “Undoubtedly, the continued deployment of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, which have brought the pandemic under control in Europe and North America, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.”
GL: “The establishment of 42 Integrated Care Systems across England on 1 July 2022 was a hugely important development. The ICSs provide a mechanism to make the provision of care more efficient and more integrated, with partnership working to help address important public health issues such as inequalities.”
MR: “The NHS-Galleri trial, which is looking into the use of a new blood test to see if it can help the NHS to detect cancer early when used alongside existing cancer screening. I was fortunate to engage with the research team about the trial not being accessible to those living in deprived areas. As we know it is often the more affluent populations that get engaged in trials. They agreed to target the trial in deprived areas and have reported excellent results in access from deprived areas.”
What was the most important thing you learnt?
AE: “The power of simulation training as an educational technique. Taking part in a simulation team challenge to raise awareness of sepsis was a real showcase of how this can engage healthcare practitioners, patients and the public, whilst highlighting a vital healthcare message.”
RK: “That people could work just as effectively from home as in the office, thanks to technologies such as Zoom and Teams, but that gatherings of people at work are still important in terms of building and maintaining team spirit and sparking innovation.”
GL: “Personally, I’ve learnt a lot this year about the investor community and how they select and fund promising young companies.”
MR: “I learnt a great deal more about mpox. I had some awareness but seeing how quickly the latest outbreak was transmitted across the world reminds us that infectious diseases don’t respect borders. I joined an excellent session on mpox at the RSM and chaired an expert panel. It was very informative and we had access to speakers from other countries which enabled a real global perspective.”
What was your favourite RSM moment?
AE: “Attending the in-person academic meeting for incoming Section Presidents, held in the RSM Library at Wimpole Street, was exciting. The vibrancy and diversity of ideas for collaborative section projects makes for an interesting, educational year at the RSM in 2023.”
RK: “It was a real pleasure to mark the 100th episode of our COVID-19 webinar series, with a special episode in March streamed live from the RSM. The series really has been a remarkable achievement and is something all involved with the RSM should be very proud of. On a personal level, I’ve really enjoyed the many more opportunities we have had to get together in person this year. Just this month, we had a fantastic wine-tasting evening, organised by wine correspondent at The Times Jane MacQuitty and Liberty Wine owner David Gleave. It was great to see people enjoying themselves together again, now that we are through the darkest days of the pandemic.”
GL: “I have really enjoyed the In Conversation Live series as a whole, and particularly the interview with Chris Patten. It stimulated me to go away and read his book, The Hong Kong Diaries.”
MR: “There have been many, so it’s difficult to choose. Earlier in the year, we hosted the UK’s Chief Medical Officers for the DARE Lecture, which was very special but the highlight I am choosing is my first Council meeting as a new Trustee of RSM. I know people often assume that these types of meetings are boring but there was a real buzz at the meeting. RSM President Roger Kirby was a brilliant chair and really got us all involved. It was impressive the way RSM Chief Executive Michele Acton engaged with Trustees and made sure we were linked to the staff.”
If you enjoyed reading this, look out for our upcoming piece, when our interviewees look ahead to 2023.