It is a huge honour to write to everyone as the new President of RA-UK. I must of course firstly thank Amit Pawa under whose guidance the society has flourished over the past few years. Membership has more than doubled, the ASM has been revamped and RAUK is increasingly involved in collaborations with the RCoA, the AoA, ESRA and ASRA. You will hopefully have seen the new nerve injury guidance in conjunction with the British Orthopaedic Association and the Fascia iliaca block and non physician practitioner statement, whilst there are documents coming out soon on Stop Before You Block, compartment syndrome, ergonomics, monitoring, defining the essential anatomical structures to visualise for Plan A blocks and block nomenclature that various members of the board have all contributed to along with other organisations. I am grateful that the board is made up of such an enthusiastic, inspiring team and I am looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in the next three years together. On that note it is sad to see Ben Fox leave and we thank him for all his work and wish him well. We are however delighted that Athmaja Thottungal has now joined us with all the RA and chronic pain expertise that she brings.
For those of you who attended #RAUK21 I hope you enjoyed it as much as the board and faculty did. Huge thanks of course to Drs Amit Pawa, Dave Johnston and Kim Russon for all their work whilst not forgetting Dr Tim Moll who had organised a lot of the original 2020 Sheffield programme. We had almost 900 delegates which is by far our biggest meeting ever. The content is now online for those that registered, and for those who missed out we will be releasing links to purchase individual sessions or the full meeting very soon. Next year we will be in Edinburgh, partnering with the International Society of Ultrasound in Regional Anaesthesia for a joint meeting which is a real honour for RA-UK. ISURA are led by Drs Philip Peng and Vincent Chan who are true pioneers in US guided RA and chronic pain. Plans are already well underway for what we will be a hybrid meeting and we hope to see as many delegates as the pandemic allows in Edinburgh in person in 2022. So save the date – 5th-7th May 2022.
The goal of RA-UK is to improve patient outcomes through promoting education and research in RA. We are passionate about promoting the Plan A blocks and if you have not already looked then there is a whole section of the website devoted to these. Remember also the link network if you are keen to visit some local experts and learn more. Whilst we already support small research projects via the NIAA, we have been working on a new RA Research Network which I am delighted to announce will be led by Dr Rachel Kearns who has an interest in RA and obstetric research. It is fantastic to see the NIHR now funding RA trials such as the ACCess study which is a multicentre trial led by ourselves in Glasgow examining RA vs LA for arteriovenous fistulae creation as well as the TOPIC2 study led by Professor Smith in Birmingham comparing paravertebral blocks to epidural blocks in thoracic surgery and focusing on persistent pain as the outcome. Just recently Drs Hewson and Bedforth in Nottingham have also been awarded NIHR funding to analyse ESP blocks in rib fractures (the ESPEAR trial). I know there is lots more happening across the country and the network will hopefully strengthen collaborations, generate ideas and promote more exciting research ideas focusing on both educational tools for RA but also importantly whether RA can improve patient centred outcomes. RAUK will be contributing £20K to the next round of NIAA funding when this re-opens, should a suitable project arise. We are also a partner organisation of “Greener Operations” which is a new James Lind Alliance Priority setting partnership which aims to identify the most important research questions that need to be answered in order to help make operations more environmentally sustainable. Please, if you have time, share your views on regional anaesthesia in particular and the environment via this link in order to help set these research priorities. These are clearly still uncertain times but when face to face meetings do begin again, whenever that may be, remember also the travel grants for ESRA meetings, ESRA instructors courses and trainee workshopsas well as the AoA international travel grant.
We value our members and are always keen to hear about new ideas, or people who are keen to get involved. Please get in touch and remember also we now have a discussion forum on our website where members can ask questions or share experiences. We are particularly keen to see more women in RA, and our recent survey identified a number of personal and professional barriers to this with one of the biggest being a lack of role models. Our board and ASM faculty have slowly been evolving and we remain committed and determined to making this change happen.
Finally, thank you for bearing with us over the past year. For many this has likely been the most challenging year of our career and likewise for us at RA-UK it has been difficult. It was however, certainly locally, rewarding to watch the use of regional anaesthesia really come to the fore. The evidence is continuing to grow whereby I do think there is an increasing role for RA, but what is perhaps most important is not that everyone necessarily has a block, but simply that we continue to advocate that RA is at least offered as a choice to patients when indicated, whilst always of course working to ensure that safety and efficacy are paramount.
I look forward to hopefully seeing as many of you as is feasible in Edinburgh in 2022 and in the meantime I wish everyone well as we continue to deal with the pandemic.
Consultant Anaesthetist, Glasgow Royal Infirmary
Honorary Professor, University of Glasgow