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Devolved Nations Liaison Officer Lauren Bennie spends her time meeting and advocating for members across the four home nations. Here, she gives an Autumn 2019 update.


In a plugged-in and switched on world of online communications, it takes more than a tweet here and a photo opportunity there to promote rheumatology in all four of our home nations. That’s why it’s my job to pick up the phone, to attend multidisciplinary team (MDT) educational meetings, to accept your warm invitations to showcase the society at regional rheumatology Managed Clinical Network days, and be available at conferences and courses to hear first-hand the developments and challenges you face in your day-to-day working lives across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.


WORKFORCE DEMANDS

The silk that weaves through much of my membership engagement is how we can champion and support you to share your best practise across the country. The workforce demands are great in the rheumatology speciality and it is striking that in spite this, our members are seeking ways to disseminate best practice further in the knowledge that this has the potential to cross borders and improve patient care. So I’m often leaned on to help join up the dots and make connections across our networks and long may this continue.


On the flipside, while very often we call for consistent approaches in healthcare across NHS trusts and local health boards, a one-size model doesn’t fit all and that couldn’t be more true as I travel around all four home nations to learn about home-grown developments and best practice in rheumatology.


RHEUMATOLOGY AS A CAREER

My focus in recent months has been to consider how we promote rheumatology as a career in Wales, Scotland and the north of England using a taster day model. Northern Ireland (NI) will not be left behind. Discussions have begun with NI's National Chairperson Dr Claire Riddell about how this might run across the water; an alternative approach might be taken in 2020 to support and address the unique workforce demands Northern Irish members face.


In Wales, Pontyclun specifically, we’re shaping our #RheumTasterDay into an evening format over dinner, while in Dundee we’re utilising iconic venue V&A Dundee over the weekend to inspire and encourage rheumatology career prospects in Scotland. Our Devolved Nations have a stronger presence on the Heberden Committee, which determines the Annual Conference programme, with my presence an aide-mémoire to committee members for increased geographical diversity in the programme.


ELECTION UPDATE

The recent elections returned greater representation on society committees and I’m looking forward to welcoming Dr Alistair Tindell, the Trainee Committee Scotland Representative, as a speaker at the Dundee taster day on 16 November. Meanwhile, my Devolved Nations to-do list includes a third visit to NI to seek out our Trainee Committee NI Representative Dr Ashley Elliott and learn from their experiences.


Interim Trainee Committee Wales Representative Mohammed Saleh also steps into his post ahead of next year’s elections. With an invitation extended to our taster day at Miskin Manor; it won’t be long before we meet.


AGILE WORKING

Supporting members in three home nations is a challenge I have been relishing. Much like your rheumatology services, I have to be flexible and agile in my ways of working. My office for drafting this update was the ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan, after meeting with Northern Ireland Versus Arthritis to better understand the Northern Irish healthcare landscape


The opportunity to visit the Parliament Buildings was invigorating but what truly galvanised everyone in Stormont’s Long Gallery was a room full of passionate rheumatology healthcare professionals sharing 10 minute bite size presentations on how they are improving patient outcomes against a backdrop of life-altering waiting times and political uncertainty in Northern Ireland.


Every conversation with our members in the devolved nations opens doors and presents unique opportunities for collaboration, new relationships and knowledge sharing. One size model doesn’t fit all so do get in touch for your bespoke devolved nations fitting. My door is always open.