ACP Leaders on the Road: London

ACP EVP and CEO Speaks to the Royal College of Physicians
Steven Weinberger, MD, MACP - ACP Executive Vice President and CEO

I recently was privileged to present the closing plenary lecture to the 2016 annual conference of the Royal College of Physicians.  The conference, which took place in Harrogate, England on March 15-16, had as its theme: “Medicine 2016: Delivering the Future Hospital.”  I was particularly interested to see that the primary moderator for much of the meeting was a very impressive, effective non-physician patient advocate, thus stressing the importance of the patient voice in all that we do as providers of healthcare.  We at ACP have similarly recognized the importance of incorporating the patient’s voice in our activities, as evidenced by our establishment in 2013 of ACP’s Center for Patient Partnership in Healthcare. 

In my talk, entitled “Internal Medicine in the United States: Lessons for the UK,” I stressed the commonality of many of the healthcare issues faced by both the US and the UK.  I also recognized that it may be presumptuous on the part of the relatively young American College of Physicians (which just celebrated its 100th birthday) to be giving advice or providing lessons to the more “mature” Royal College of Physicians (which was founded under the reign of Henry VIII and will be celebrating its 500th anniversary in 2018!).  In fact, the UK has achieved universal health care at much lower cost and with higher quality than we have been able to do in the US.  In covering some of the “hot” issues in healthcare in the US, I focused my talk on the following themes, which are relevant to the UK as well: making the system work; meeting the needs of patients; and being able to pay for it.

Despite its successes, the healthcare system in the UK is not without its problems.  Based on what I heard at the many sessions that I attended during the meeting, some of the specific issues of concern in the UK are related to:  1) workforce, with clearly an insufficient number of internists to meet the healthcare needs of the population; 2) dissatisfaction of the “junior doctors” (equivalent to residents in the US) for complicated reasons, but serious enough to lead to periods in which they go “on strike” for non-emergency coverage; and 3) cutbacks in support by the National Health Service (NHS).  Many of these topics were included in lectures given by a number of distinguished speakers, such as plenary talks by Professor Sir Michael Marmot (University College London Institute of Health Equity and President of the World Medical Association), Professor Sir Bruce Keogh (Medical Director of NHS England), as well as an outstanding and inspirational talk by the only other speaker from the US, former CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick.

Surprisingly, there has been relatively little collaboration in the past between the American College of Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians.  However, Professor Jane Dacre (President of the Royal College) and I are committed to having our organizations work more closely together.  We were delighted that Professor Dacre participated in the Convocation Ceremony at our centennial annual meeting in Boston last year, and we are currently developing plans to encourage joint membership in both ACP and RCP.  In many respects, “the world is flat” when it comes to healthcare delivery, and we believe it will benefit both of our organizations to expand upon collaborative efforts in the future.

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