In June, we had the pleasure of welcoming a host of RMBF volunteers and special guests to our third ever national Volunteer Conference, at the King’s Fund in London.

The day was themed around storytelling, exploring the power of people’s personal stories, both in the RMBF’s work and in the medical profession more widely.

Attendees were given an early taste of the day’s creative and collaborative tone, kicking off with a Taskmaster-style building challenge. Supplied with jelly babies and spaghetti, teams competed to build the tallest tower that would support a balloon. It’s possible that some of the building materials were sacrificed for a helpful sugar hit!

Three young women are trying to build a tower out of jelly babies and spaghetti. They're laughing, and it looks like the tower might fall if they let go of it.

After an opening address from our Chair, Duncan Bew, we welcomed our keynote speaker, bestselling author and productivity expert Graham Allcott, speaking on the theme of his upcoming book, Kind: The Quiet Power of Kindness at Work. Graham explained how the most successful leaders and organisations recognise that kindness builds empathy, trust and psychological safety, which supports productive and positive work cultures. He also shared the intensely personal story of how his son Roscoe, who is disabled, has become a “vessel for kindness” in his life.

Graham Allcott, a shaven-headed white man in a blue shirt, is giving a presentation. His slides are on a big screen behind him.

After lunch, RMBF Trustee Robin Banerjee took a deep dive into the history of storytelling, all the way from early homo sapiens’ cave paintings to the modern “cave wall” that is social media. Robin highlighted the Post Office scandal, and the impact of the ITV drama, to illustrate how an emotional connection to a story can lead to meaningful change.

Catherine Raynor, of storytelling agency Mile 91, explained the cognitive science of storytelling, and how brains are wired to turn incomplete information into a story – filling in the gaps if necessary! And RMBF’s Senior Communications Officer Joe Meredith examined how stories can help different groups in the “RMBF family” work more effectively together.

Next we heard from Dr Haran “Hash” Selvachandran, a surgeon working in Manchester. While enjoying a post-shift meal with colleagues, Hash had a seizure. Scans showed that he had a benign tumour on his brain. After an operation, Hash aimed to return to full-time practise, but then had the first of three further post-op seizures, setting him back each time.

The RMBF were able to help Hash with financial support before his operation, during his recovery, and afterwards, enabling him to focus first and foremost on his focus mental and physical health. Hash told his story movingly, with great poise and hope for the future. We also got to see the importance of humour and friendship in difficult times, thanks to a video of Hash’s friends shaving his head in preparation for a second operation.

The day concluded with an opportunity to better understand each other’s stories. Juliette Somers of Hanson Wade led attendees in an interactive and collaborative training session based around people’s communication styles.

A group of conference attendees are mingling and chatting in a lobby.

It was wonderful to see such a varied group of volunteers in attendance – both medical students and doctors, spanning a wide range of ages and backgrounds, working and studying in all parts of the country. The important work of supporting doctors can only benefit from having so many different stories and perspectives to call on.

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us in-person or online, and to our fantastic Head of Volunteering Kate Bresler-Jones for her organisational efforts. We can’t wait to welcome you to the next event!