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The development of the network concept, via the reconfiguration of
Irish hospitals into six hospital groups has been progressing steadily
over the last six months. An informative summary of what has been
accomplished to date was provided during the mid-morning session
at the Millin Symposium in RCSI in November. A distinguished
panel of speakers with pivotal roles in moving the network strategy
forward presented many enlightening insights, including: a progress
report on the overall strategy from Professor John R. Higgins,
Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Head of College Of
Medicine & Health, UCC; a management overview from Ian Carter,
National Director of Acute Hospitals, HSE; a service delivery update
from Professor Pierce Grace, Chief Clinical Director, UL Hospitals,
Limerick; and an overview of the academic partner perspective from
Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO/Registrar, RCSI.
In regard to the Dublin North East Hospital Group, within which
RCSI is the academic partner, it was encouraging to see the
announcement in October of the appointment of Ms Anne Maher
as Chairperson of the Group. On behalf of RCSI, I welcome her
appointment and the experience she brings to the role, particularly
from her work as Chairman of the Medical Professional Competence
Steering Committee and her subsequent membership of the Medical
Council Professional Competence Committee.
With the Chairperson in place, we now look forward to the
appointment of a Chief Executive Officer, which should provide the
impetus to advance the network concept forward to its next phase.
The surgical community in the College has shown great leadership
in collaborating with the HSE to develop the Surgical Clinical
Programmes including the Elective Surgery Programme and the
Acute Surgery Programme. The team of medics and project managers,
led by my predecessor and past President, Professor Frank Keane,
and current Council Member, Mr Ken Mealy, worked tirelessly in
producing templates for the Surgery Clinical Programmes.
Now, the programmes are in their implementation phase in hospitals
across the country. Given the imperative to avoid trolley waits in
ED, it is to be expected that hospital managers are committed to
implementing the Acute Surgery Programme. In the absence of that
imperative in relation to the Elective Surgery Programme, I would
urge managers not to dilute their commitment to it. Where this
programme has been successful, the drive of the surgeons, combined
with the support of management, has resulted in immediate benefits
such as decreases in routine waiting lists and improved opportunities
for trainees, as well as greater use and enhancement of surgical skills.
Surgeons have repeatedly shown their ability to adapt and reinvent
themselves but need the support of hospital managers. They also
need managers to appreciate that having good, constant surgical
practice in hospitals is of huge benefit.
As I outlined in the previous issue of Surgical Scope, all the discussion,
planning and hard work to re-envision our Basic Surgical Training
(BST) pathway bore fruit with the launch of the new programme and
the acceptance of a first intake of trainees in July 2013. I am greatly
encouraged by the positive response to date to the new, more focused
Now, as the programme proceeds, we must engage with, and
manage, new challenges that it presents, while providing support and
encouragement to the young trainees who have set out on the new
training pathway.
A key priority is addressing the importance of specialty selection
immediately post-internship. In the new programme, trainees are
encouraged to identify, at as early a stage as possible, their first and
second choices of specialty. The College's role is to ensure that each
trainee makes an informed and confident choice. Thereafter, the
College is committed to do its utmost to mentor and streamline
trainees into the specialty stream of their choice.
When they progress to the later years of the programme, trainees will
identify areas of research that interest them which are of more specific
relevance to their specialty choice. Clearly, academic and scientific
pursuits will continue to be an important component of our training
programmes but with an even more targeted focus than heretofore.
Much of my confidence in the successful implementation of this
academic aspect of the programme is based on the track record of
outstanding work by the Professors in our Academic Departments of
Surgery. Over the last two decades, they have consistently provided
rich research opportunities for our young trainees. The support of the
Academic Departments and the Professors for the new programme is
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