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A message from the President

A few words from BASS President.

 

I am very proud to have taken over as President of BASS from Am Rai.   It was an honour to be asked to do this and one that I shall endeavour to do to the best of my ability.  Am has done a great job as President which is demonstrated by the success of the Manchester meeting.  He is handing on a society that has flourished over the past 2 years under his leadership.  I am very grateful for all his hard work for BASS especially over the last 2 years.  On behalf of all of us I am very grateful for all he has put in and thank him in advance for all the ongoing work that I am going to try to persuade him to do in the future

I take on this job with my eyes open.   I am very aware of the financial pressures on the NHS.  We have a lack of beds, difficulties with staffing and constant change.  During out conference we have had talks from Tim Briggs on GIRFT and the need for demonstrable outcomes.  Jeremy Marlow has told us about NHS improvement.  Tim Piggott and James Wilson-Macdonald have educated us on litigation and indemnity.  It is not easy being a spinal surgeon at the moment.

Our aims for BASS are to try and help and support spinal surgeons and to improve patient care.  If we rest on our laurels we will be overtaken, we have to constantly strive to improve.  We aim to try to make BASS an environment to encourage and facilitate this.

We aim to do this through initiatives such as our consent guidance, help with training and teaching and meetings such as this.  We represent your opinions to the Clinical reference group and to other societies.  Our challenge is to keep the financial backing for spine surgery that we currently have, whilst gaining the resources to evolve and progress surgical care for spinal conditions.  At the same time we must demonstrate that we are currently performing interventions that do improve patients quality of life both short term and for the long term.

To do this we all need outcome data.  This was why the British Spinal Registry was set up.  It was set up by BASS, with a great deal of work by Ashley Cole and Lee Breakwell.  During our meeting we listened to the excellent debate about registries and what has become obvious is that we need data to allow us to justify and improve our practice.   The BSR is critical in this, but one of our challenges is to ensure that we administer and interpret the data, making it available to other groups in a controlled way when it is appropriate and accurate.  We are mindful that data is collected from both Orthopaedic and Neurosurgeons, and that other databases are available.  Our aims are to build a team around the BSR to ensure that as it grows, it has the infrastructure to use the data to improve spinal outcomes.  It is critical to this that BASS continues to ensure that spinal raw data is administered by spinal surgeons.

We do not work in a vacuum, but rather with many other allied professionals.  The care of spinal pathologies involves us only as a last resort.  Some of these are medical and many are not. Whilst we often feel that we should lead the team, we could not provide spinal care without a lot of help.  Many have presented talks and research both at the main meeting in Manchester and at the break out day. We are going to encourage associate membership of BASS by any and all allied professional in spinal care and aim to have other clinical groups running sessions along side our main meeting to improve spinal care.

The UKSSB was set up to facilitate communication and collaboration between the Surgical societies.  It has done this well.  More recently there are suggestions that this could be expanded to include more non-surgical members.  This may be to our advantage, to allow further collaboration between more of the stakeholders in spinal care.  I am sure that the more of us that work together the better for the UK.  I am anxious however that if this is the direction that the UKSSB takes, we would need to ensure that the surgical decisions for the country would remain under the direction of surgical societies.  This is particularly important for training and equipping the surgeons of the future.

At the inception of BASS we were a predominantly Orthopaedic society.  I am very pleased to say that our membership now includes large numbers of spinal neurosurgeons and is all the better for it.  As a consequence we have been in discussion with Paul May and the SBNS.  We now have a framework for collaboration and communication between the BASS and SBNS executive.

We also work closely with the BOA, and Lee Breakwell was recently elected onto the BOA council.   We have asked him to work with us to act as a conduit between the BOA and BASS.  Our intention is to act for and with both these bodies for the advancement of Spinal Surgery in the UK.  Niall Eames and Tom Cadoux-Hudson epitomise this in their work setting up the Spinal Training Interface Group.  This is likely to set the future direction of spinal training.  This had been done with much collaboration between all the Surgical societies and nurtured for many years by Alastair Sterling.  BASS will do all it can to continue this process.

We need to know what I, and the rest of the Executive, can do for you.  We need both guidance on where you would like us to go and your help to get there.  We all know colleagues who are great at offering advice, but hard to find when we look for help to carry it out.  We need those like John Powell and David Sharp, who get on and do what they talk about and in doing so benefit the whole Spinal community.  Each of our Executive members leads a committee to deliver its goals.  We would welcome anyone who would like to get involved and help us deliver on what you want us to do.  I can assure you that it can be both interesting and rewarding.

We represent the leadership for the country in spinal care.  It is important that we look for the positives.  Pity and reminiscences for the past will not help our patients.  We have still got a healthcare system that others envy.  We have resources that are not perfect but still very good compared with much of the world.  If we wallow in self-pity, someone else will take control but we have an opportunity to influence spinal care and need to take it.

The BASS meeting in Manchester was a great opportunity to come together and see the best of our profession.  We need to use this a catalyst for continued progress.  In taking up this role I am following in the footsteps of Surgeons that I both admired and aspired to emulate.  I hope that I can work both for and with you all and represent your views, interests and needs.  My overall aim is to improve spinal surgery in the UK. I hope that together we can achieve great things.

Stuart Blagg

President

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