On Thursday 1st June, the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund’s incredible Volunteers and some esteemed guests gathered in Birmingham for our 180th Anniversary Conference, entitled A Celebration of Our Volunteer Network.
Our Volunteers are the backbone of the RMBF, working to support our beneficiaries, raise vital funds and spread the word of our work around the country. The intention of the day was to celebrate their work, but also to shape the future of the Volunteer network, and share ideas on how best to deliver and develop the support offered by the charity.
The morning session began with an icebreaker – a specially-designed RMBF jigsaw puzzle challenge to get attendees chatting and collaborating, ending in an unexpected three-way dead heat!
With the room suitably warmed up, the morning’s presentations began, with attendees welcomed by our President, Professor Parveen Kumar and Volunteer Programme Manager Kate Sheppard. Vicki Wentworth, Chief Customer and Strategy Officer at Wesleyan, lead sponsors of the event, spoke about their longstanding support for the charity and the reasons behind it, as well as giving a personal story of how her time in the military has shaped the way she works to support those in need.
RMBF Treasurer and President of the BMA, Prof Pali Hungin, gave a frank and uncompromising overview of the issues affecting doctors in 2017, and the “symptoms” arising throughout the profession, which in turn affect patients. He argued that the RMBF’s support is more necessary than ever, and that the charity has remained a vital resource by retaining its core values over 180 years, but always being sure to adapt to the changing needs of the profession.
Focusing on the RMBF’s work over the past year were Chair Prof Roger Jones and Chief Executive Steve Crone. 234 beneficiaries received assistance from the charity in 2016-17, with a 50% increase in grant expenditure – a key sign that we are reaching more people in need. Steve also covered the launch of our new website, the relaunch of our Medical Student Programme, and of course the tireless efforts of our Volunteers to support our beneficiaries and increase awareness of our work.
The focus next turned to the views of our Volunteers and guests, starting with a session of questions for the Trustees, launching a varied discussion touching on the danger of depersonalisation for doctors, RMBF’s plans for coaching and mentoring services, and how we should view the concept of “resilience”. Tables then put their heads together for a session on talking confidently about the RMBF’s work, penning insightful and inspiring key phrases for Volunteers and supporters to use when spreading the word.
The morning concluded with an engaging presentation from Dr Duncan Shrewsbury, GP Registrar and Royal College of General Practitioners AiT Chair, on helping new and future doctors. Dr Shrewsbury set out the unique challenges that are faced by the younger generation of doctors, and how these are exacerbated by problems with low confidence and morale, and negativity within the profession. However, there are many doctors trying new initiatives to combat these challenges, and small changes to ways of working can make a big difference to doctors’ wellbeing.
After sitting down to a well-earned lunch and some bonus fun in the form of a quiz, sessions resumed in the afternoon with presentations from Dr Harj Kaul and Dr Roberto Bilbao. In 2009, Dr Bilbao was involved in a road traffic accident that resulted in him being tetraplegic. Dr Kaul was his occupational health physician (OHP) at this time, and supported him while he sought help from the RMBF. His presentation looked at referrals to OHPs among doctors, especially for psychiatric issues, and the ramifications of this for the profession. New services are being introduced, said Dr Kaul, but warned against these being too London-centric. Dr Bilbao then gave a very personal presentation of how his disability has affected his career, and shared stories of doctors who have achieved incredible success while living with disability.
To close the day, the floor was opened for a wide-ranging discussion on an important topic, namely how the RMBF can engage younger doctors and medical students to ensure that we can provide vital support into the future. Several medical students in the audience shared very valuable perspectives on the key people, departments and organisations to reach out to.
While this was our first national Volunteer conference, we are very keen that it will not be the last! The enthusiasm during the day made us confident that we can build on this event, and we hope to make this an annual occasion in future.
Our sincerest thanks again to everyone who came along and made the day so memorable – our Volunteers, President and Trustees, speakers and staff, Wesleyan and The MDU for their generous sponsorship of the event, and to Conference Aston for hosting us.