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COVID-19 continues to heavily impact on our personal and professional lives, causing tremendous strain and requiring many sacrifices. You, like our colleagues across the health service, have risen to this challenge, showing resilience, an ability to adapt and innovate in these toughest of times.

I’m immensely proud of what BSR achieved throughout 2020. We produced continuously updated ‘gold standard’ COVID-19 guidance and resources, reshaped education and conference opportunities, intensified our policy work to support you, while our recent elections increased diversity and representation on our committees.

Looking to the year ahead, here are some areas of focus I urge you to get involved in:

Workforce, service delivery and careers

An extensive review of the UK rheumatology workforce, assessing staffing levels, barriers to choosing rheumatology as a career and how to sustainably manage succession planning, will drive our work to develop career paths.

We’ll raise the specialty’s profile and ensure we’re at the forefront of improving equality, diversity and inclusion. COVID-19 resources for recovery, reset and innovation in service delivery will continue to be developed.

Quality improvement

Our focus on raising standards in rheumatology starts with the National Early Inflammatory Arthritis Audit (NEIAA) report, which launches in a few days, closely followed by the much-anticipated results from the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) rheumatology review.

Three clinical guidelines with supporting resources and educational material are scheduled for publication, while our quality improvement awareness drive continues with webinars focusing on ePROMs and two very important launches – Best Practice Awards and the Quality Review Scheme. These initiatives recognise and celebrate rheumatology achievements, innovations and exceptional quality standards.

Education and development of the entire multidisciplinary team

Stability in education and access to learning resources has never been more important as we all try to recover from the impact of 2020. This year we’re offering courses for nurses and allied health professionals, increasing opportunities for the paediatric and adolescent community, and collaborating with other organisations on frameworks for physiotherapists, pharmacists and more.

Digital opportunities provide exceptional value for members and all courses and conferences will be delivered online, including the return of the UK’s leading rheumatology conference in April 2021. Our newly upgraded eLearning library is focusing each month on a ‘hot topic’ – remember, as a member you have access to the entire catalogue!

On a personal note, the pandemic response continues to be a major focus and I’m working with the NHS, patient and professional bodies to ensure that rheumatology and our society are represented, and our views heard at key decision-making levels. The BSR Board and I will ensure we innovate and invest in BSR’s future to serve the needs of our diverse and growing membership, despite a reduction in income due to the pandemic.

I will also work with regional and devolved nation chairs to continue to engage and support all members and to encourage increased member involvement with all BSR activities.

Your huge contributions to our committees, research, education, the development of guidance and policy and sharing of best practice allows BSR to serve our community with excellent leadership, and makes it the fantastic society that it is.

Finally, the rate of development, approval and roll out of vaccines against COVID-19 has been astonishing and gives us confidence to move forward with optimism.

While there are significant hurdles ahead, we’ll overcome them together and make this an exceptional year for UK rheumatology.

Dr Sanjeev Patel, BSR President