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Royal College of Surgeons Northern Ireland Director steps down after five years at the helm

28 Jun 2023

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) of England Northern Ireland Director Professor Mark Taylor is stepping down after five years at the helm.

The Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (HPB) surgeon took up the Northern Ireland College role in 2018 and will formally demit in September as Northern Ireland Director. Recruitment for a new director is ongoing.

As RCS England Northern Ireland Director Professor Mark Taylor has been a high-profile advocate for patients and a champion for elective recovery, which took on significant relevance when the pandemic arrived in March 2020. In the early stages of the pandemic elective surgery was effectively switched off and over the next few years, activity rates waxed and waned as fresh COVID-19 and winter spikes hit the system. In the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic Mark as Director also advocated for greater protection of surgical patients and elective surgery.

Similarly he advocated at all times on behalf of his colleagues when in the early weeks of the pandemic it became clear that access to Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was not equitable. With other health leaders he called on the health service to ensure that all levels of staff from domiciliary care to intensive care received the appropriate level of PPE alongside rapid access to testing.

He led on surveys of College members during the pandemic including this recovery survey in 2020 and also reinvigorated the local College board ensuring all surgical specialties were represented alongside enhanced trainee and medical student voices. He gave evidence and engaged with MLAs on a regular basis throughout his tenure and gave formal evidence on pandemic impacts to the Northern Ireland Health Committee at Stormont and the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee at Westminster. He also joined other royal colleges in urging the NI Executive to return and help efforts in addressing the health service crisis during the political stalemate of 2019 and again in 2022. 

Speaking about his time as Director coming to an end, Professor Taylor said:

“It has been a privilege to serve as the Royal College of Surgeons of England Director in Northern Ireland over the last years and I pay tribute to my colleagues who work every day to do their best in very challenging situations. I would like to thank all those in the Department, SPPG, Trusts, primary care, relevant stakeholder groups and local politicians who gave their support and assistance to me and the College team over the last five years. 

“The scale of NI’s waiting lists are significant and we were determined to play our part in advocating for greater surgical activity for our patients. We know the pandemic wreaked havoc on health systems all over the world and Northern Ireland is no different.

"Central to this role has been the need to champion more chances for surgeons to operate in a protected environment and the need for a refreshed workforce strategy that addresses the deep challenges in our medical and nursing workforce. We welcome the Elective care Framework and the opportunities that now exist to transform our health and social care system.”

Recovering elective surgery in the face of mounting waiting lists in Northern Ireland through the development of surgical hubs alongside the need for transformation of HSC services have been the surgeon’s two goals. These missions were reflected in the Northern Ireland action plan for surgical recovery: 10 steps not 10 years and the surgical manifesto for the 2022 Stormont Assembly elections.

The advancement of surgical hubs has been a major success for the College in NI with two elective centres based at Lagan Valley Hospital and Omagh, highlighted in the recent RCS England Case for Surgical Hubs report. More opportunities for surgeons to operate and reduce lengthy waiting times have also been enhanced through the overnight surgery centres at Daisy Hill, South West Acute Hospital and the Mater Hospital in Belfast.

Working with Royal College partners throughout his tenure has represented another jewel in the crown for the County Derry-born surgeon. He added: “Working collaboratively with Royal College leaders in Northern Ireland and trade unions has been a huge triumph for me. Secondary care doctors working in partnership with colleagues in primary care, emergency care, allied health professionals and nursing is a major force for good and one which should be formally harnessed.

"Everyone is deeply committed towards making healthcare better here in Northern Ireland and that’s a rich asset that deserves to be celebrated and recognised.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) provides world-class education, assessment and development to 30,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. Our vision is to see excellent surgical care for everyone. We do this by setting professional standards, facilitating research and championing the best outcomes for patients.

2. A Professional Board of over 20 surgeons represents RCS England in Northern Ireland. They reflect the specialty areas of neurosurgery, ENT, paediatrics, general surgery, trauma and orthopaedics, plastics, urology, vascular, cardiothoracic and OMFS.

3. The Professional Board also includes Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT), QUB & UU Medical School Surgical Societies, NIMDTA Head of the School of Surgery, SAS doctors and an RCS England Council member.

4. The purpose of the Board is to improve surgical outcomes for patients, advocate locally and support the dissemination of good practice and professional guidance.

5. For more information, please contact the Press Office: Telephone: 020 7869 6052/6055 Email: Out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056. 


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