Musing from RCGP annual conference 2018

We have survived! The annual conference represents one of the four events that the JIC meet face to face where there is often a manic but very productive buzz. Glasgow, the third most populous city in the United Kingdom, has a great vibe to it, perhaps because it homes five universities in a 10 mile radius or because we have so many current and ex-JIC members from there. We were treated to Scottish treats like haggis with whiskey cream, bagpipes and singing as well as a ceilidh a the Gala dinner over the three days. So even though the conference is technically work for my team, it was also educational and super fun!

Having arrived in Glasgow at Wednesday early afternoon, there was barely any time before dinner to fit in a meeting with our secretary, Aya, followed by a meeting with our Vasco da Gama representative, Stuart. The team only meet four times a year face-to-face and the rest is done by Skype, emails, Whatsapps and telephone calls. Working remotely in a team has many challenges and I usually find nuances lost when chatting to someone over the phone unless I know them really well. Therefore, not only are the conferences opportunities to meet other young doctors but also an opportunity to iron out any team discussions. There’s some pretty exciting news that I’m trying desperately not to overshare but will let you know in a couple of months if successful!!!!

(From left) Juan (Spain), Yigal (Israel), Irene (Spain), Ilaria (Italy), João (Portugal), Susanna (Finland), Kelly (Spain), Päivi (Finland), Laminu (Ireland) and the boss, Stuart (UK)
(From left) Dice, Shiori, Sachi, Masa and our lovely Daniel (Beyond Europe Lead)

Every year, we offer ten GPs from Europe (this is our conference exchange for the Vasco da Gama movement) and five from Japan a partially-funded opportunity to attend the RCGP conference with a few days of sitting in at a NHS clinic. We organise a dinner the day before the conference to allow an opportunity for everyone to meet and the atmosphere was electric with everyone talking about their different health systems. “Are co-payments a good idea?” “What time do you finish your clinics?” “How long are your consultations?”. My mind was blown when Susanna, our exchangee from Finland, said that she finished at 4pm every day. I bet you’re all thinking how easy is it to learn Finnish so that we can move (or maybe that’s just me!)

The plenaries were interesting. I think Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard is a very engaging speaker and she is incredibly funny. The focus this year has definitely been on the the use of technology which was a running theme through many of the key-note speeches. I’m sure we’ve all wasted many hours in the hospital and clinics waiting computers to reload and often wonder if we are the only industry to still be using bleeps and fax machines which are items I remember from my teenage years. I really advocate the NHS updating to the 21st century and I dream of the day that I can work from home (oh, to be in your pyjama bottoms all day). How much better would your quality of life be if this was an option but, even better, to be able to do online consultations whilst working abroad would be fantastic. This would upkeep the skills of our GPs abroad who need to stay on the Performer’s list and being able to work regularly whilst away would probably alleviate any anxiety of coming back to clinical work in the UK. I strongly believe that we should be telling the tech industry what we need rather than the other way around. My friend does some Skype consultations for a NHS surgery whilst he lives in Europe so it’s definitely possible but the question is how to do it safely.

Daniel, our Beyond Europe Lead introducing the Japanese presentations

The JIC timetable kicked off with the Japanese presentations at lunchtime on the first day. Part of the deal with the exchange is that the British delegates present a poster at the Japan Primary Care Association (JPCA) conference in Japan and the Japanese do a five-minute presentation at the RCGP conference. I’m always impressed with the Japanese for presenting in a second language and every year the calibre gets better. Needless to say, they completely slayed it and were then free to enjoy the rest of the conference.

Then it was me up next for my “Global Health, Local Networks” with Dr Sam Merriel (Severn Faculty and JIC), Dr Claire Thomas (President VDGM) and all co-ordinated by Dr David Blane (West of Scotland Faculty). Between us we were able to discuss how to organise local, national and international networks of global health. Interestingly, we were one of the workshops to be fully booked and around 100 people turned up which shows that there is a real appetite for the work that we do.

Then Claire, Bernedeta and Julia ran a workshop on the benefits of exchanges which was really well-delivered and engaging. We had an opportunity to discuss in small groups what the benefits were for hosting and for being a host and we had some positive discussion about how to overcome some of the challenges. It was great to myth-bust some of the preconceptions and get some pretty important conversations started.

Our Vasco da Gama representative, Stuart, presenting the exchangees from Europe

Finally we had a clash of workshops on the second day where both the Vasco da Gama exchangees presentation and the workshop on graphic design and primary care. I headed off to support the Vasco da Gamaians but I’m gutted I missed the other one. Again, it was a great turn out despite it being a disco shift slot and the guys made great presentations on what they would import to the NHS from their country. There were talks on physiotherapy triage from Finland, training to use dermatoscopes in primary care from Spain, community workers to alleviate social determinants of health from Italy, intermediary care from Israel, electronic prescribing apps from Portugal. It was so fascinating to hear what other countries were doing well and brought some ideas for reverse innovation.

A last good bye from all the exchanges!

My week of fun and frolics ended with a few of us attending the showing of ex-JIC member, Ula’s sister’s film Glasgow, Love and Apartheid.  It’s a really personal portrayal of their family through their experiences of segregation and racism and the relatively unknown link of Glasgow to the anti-apartheid campaign. I really recommend this programme which will be aired on the BBC on Tuesday 9th October.

So to end my rambling musings, here’s a summary of the plenaries if you want to watch them. If you don’t have time to watch all of them (which I reckon no one does), watch the one by Lord Victor Adebowale which reminds us all why we do what we do. And if you have another 2 minutes 30 spare, watch the highlights, as yours truly makes a cameo at 1 minute 31. I look like I’m saying something intelligent but I’m actually just telling everyone to apply for the RCGP International Travel Scholarships. Very emphatically.

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