Q&A: HCSA President John Schofield

In April, Professor John Schofield will be stepping down after three years as HCSA President. We quizzed him before he does.

Looking back at your time as HCSA President, what are the achievements that you are most satisfied by?
Changing the constitution to admit specialist registrars as members; the development of the Hospital Representative programme; the stronger relationships built with the Department of Health, Trades Union Congress, NHS England, and government; expansion and reorganisation of the HCSA to provide more staff and national officers, including dedicated individuals for communications, policy and recruitment; and finally working with ACCEA as a national nominating body to support members applications.

What do you see the role of the HCSA as being in 2016, and in the future?
Achieving national recognition – this remains work in progress, but we are much nearer, I believe. Also, working with all partners to support the needs of Consultants and Specialists and expanding our support of junior doctors in specialist training.

What are the main changes within the context in which hospital doctors are working today that you have seen during your time as President?
There has been a massive reorganisation, with the enactment of the Health and Social Care Bill causing destabilisation and damage to the system, we’ve seen the creeping privatisation of many aspects of the NHS, and a slow and insidious reduction in the influence of hospital doctors both in local hospitals and nationally.

The government has also attacked the profession in a way not previously experienced, with more doctors considering retiring early or a career abroad to escape the above.

Alongside this there has been an attack on pensions, leading to consultants retiring early and a reduced number of fewer experienced individuals remaining shouldering increased workload. The reduction in retire and return opportunities is fuelling the drain.

Do you have any concerns, hopes or wishes for the future that you could pinpoint in the day-to-day experience of hospital doctors?
Maintaining the professionalism of doctors in the face of increasing pressure, ensuring that the new contracts do not disadvantage the existing or developing specialist medical workforce, and arresting the continuing culture of bullying in the NHS.

What will your involvement in HCSA be when your term as President ends?
It is important that the new president is able to move the Association forward in their own way. As immediate past president, I will support the president and continue to sit on the executive committee for the next three years.

There is still a lot to achieve, particularly around national recognition and policy development. I hope to have an impact in this continuing development, particularly around helping to develop and refine and policy and communications.

Do you have a final message for HCSA members?
It has been an enormous privilege to be the HCSA President for the last three years. I have enjoyed meeting many dedicated hospital doctors as well as NHS employers, Department of Health representatives, politicians, and other union staff.

It has reinforced my conviction of the need for us all to work together to achieve the very best in healthcare in the UK.