It is fair to say that I am a dedicated Midlander. I was born and bred on the border between East and West Midlands. I went to University in Birmingham and my junior doctor career started in the West Midlands. Like many juniors then, and even more now, I had hoped to complete my pre-registration training and embark on a work adventure to Australia or other exciting foreign land. That never panned out, partly because of life circumstances, but mostly because I discovered and fell in love with Palliative Medicine as a speciality.
Whilst the UK faces many Palliative and End of Life Care (PEoLC) challenges, there is no doubt that it offers a plethora of career opportunities in this field. It is my view, that the West Midlands offers the very best of those. Since qualifying as a Palliative Medicine Consultant, I have actively searched for job opportunities further afield. I remain in the West Midlands, not because it is easiest, but because I have never been able to assure myself that any other region could offer me superior; diversity of career opportunity, clinical and leadership experience or peer support.
If you still need convincing, let me describe in brief, my journey to date. Since my first job in Palliative care at the turn of the century, I have supported 7 different Hospice teams, 4 Hospital teams and 5 community teams. Each has very different patient demographics and from work with that diverse patient population has come a wealth of experiences and learning. I have delivered medical education for 3 different Universities and education and training to allied health and social care professionals from across an even broader range of organisations. I am part of a strong regional research collaborative Building a Research Hub for Palliative Care in Birmingham and the West Midlands (BRHUmB) – University of Birmingham I completed my Masters in Healthcare Policy and Management, with the brilliant Health Service Management Centre at the University of Birmingham. I have been a Hospice Medical Director for 11 years and during that time I have been involved in a multitude of service development and innovation initiatives, including a full Hospice merger. In 2021 I was lucky enough to secure the post of NHSE Clinical lead for PEoLC in the West Midlands.
The standout thing for me, is the strength of support I have gained over the years from my West Midlands peer group. I had an amazing training experience with a group of fellow Palliative Medicine SpRs (as was the nomenclature then), who remain not only colleagues but firm friends. The training scheme has gone from strength to strength since. We have a great training programme director, and other Consultants in the region give a lot of time to support both the specialty training committee and the trainees own Research collaborative – WMCARES.
After CCT, peer support is offered through the West Midlands Palliative Care Physicians Society. This is an active group who meet regularly to share learning and best practice (as well as lots of coffee and cake over the years!) The society produce our regional Guidelines for the use of drugs in symptom control hosted on our own independent website which are used by providers across the whole region, nationally and even internationally.
If anyone is considering a career in Palliative Medicine and thinking about opting to train in the West Midlands, but is still to be convinced, please do get in touch on Twitter @MidsPall or DM me @drdebtalbot
By Debbie Talbot