So, late in January, on a cold wet day, I set off on a day trip to London. I always enjoy being in London and today I was meeting Andrew to observe two very different meetings. The first meeting was the Board meeting at the Royal Brompton Hospital. Andrew is a Non-Executive Director of the board, and I was able to observe the discussions at the meeting; ranging from an IT Update to Clinical Quality reports to finances. Andrew kindly organised it so would be sat just behind him allowing him to clarify terminology for me. After the meeting I spoke to some of the other non-executive directors, who were all very friendly, and it was great to meet other leaders from other professions.
We then rushed to get a train to Epsom, Surrey to visit Epsom College for the Royal Medical Foundation Board Meeting. Andrew was educated at this college and is now the chairman of the council of the Royal Medical Foundation (RMF) of Epsom College and Chairman of Governors of Epsom College. We had time to have a quick tour of the school, and it is an amazing school with brilliant facilities. The RMF is a charity who aims to assist doctors and their families who are in financial hardship. This meeting was to review current cases and make decisions on new cases to be brought up by the case worker. I was privileged to be able to see the case notes, and whilst observing the discussion about controversial cases, it was difficult to make a decision on whether the RMF supports a family in need. There are two sides to look at: the family’s case and if there is evidence of financial hardship and that the money will be beneficial. However, that money given is potentially being taken away from another family in need. That lead to a difficult discussion about a few cases, but decisions were made. I think experience would help in this situation because I felt I would struggle to make a decision in the short time allocated to cases, and I’d be too generous with cases that the committee felt didn’t reach the criteria for needing financial help. However, the RMF always seeks to help the families by providing advice and guidance on where else they can seek help which is more appropriate for their situation. It also made me realise that doctors are not immune to hardship and it was sad hearing some of the unlucky experiences many have had which had lead them to the point of appealing for help. Mental health was an issue in cases, and I really feel that this can be overlooked by those who assume doctors are resistant to these problems. However, doctors, just like any other adult are susceptible to mental health problems and many hide this problem whilst continuing work due to the stigma attached to having a mental illness. After this thought provoking meeting, we quickly hopped onto another train back to Euston and I returned to Birmingham.
I have planned to attend another meeting with Andrew in March for the Private Healthcare Information Network, which Andrew chairs. For now I will be trying to think about what I’ve learnt at the Hospital Trust Board meeting to everyday situations I see during my clinical placements at NHS hospitals. This has been particularly true regarding financial deficits and the effects of this on hospitals and ultimately on patients.