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RespiratoryNov 8, 2021

Rachael Moses makes history as the first physio to be president of the British Thoracic Society

In an exclusive Q&A interview with PhysioUpdate, Rachael Moses tells editor Ian A McMillan about her career highlights and what becoming president of the British Thoracic Society (BTS) means to her and the profession at large. Currently BTS president-elect, Rachael takes over the presidential reins at the society's annual general meeting later this month.

Thumbs up: Rachael Moses is proud to break the mould at the British Thoracic Society

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How will your physiotherapy background influence how you approach your presidency at the BTS?

I feel privileged to work as a consultant physiotherapist helping people with respiratory conditions. The autonomy that comes with working at consultant level allows me to practise both independently and offer my advanced skills and opinion as part of a wider specialist multidisciplinary team (MDT). 

Working autonomously means I have to assess, diagnose, treat and evaluate people living with often complex respiratory conditions. At times this can feel quite daunting, but I am well supported by excellent doctors, nurses, other allied health professionals (AHPs) and the wider MDT.

I think this is important and will support me as the BTS is a multi-professional member organisation. Being able to appreciate all of the professional groups that care for people living with respiratory disease is really important to me.                       

Is physiotherapy beginning to realise its potential on national, and even international, multidisciplinary platforms like this?

With so many physiotherapy role models today, there is so much inspiration for the current and next generation of physiotherapy leaders. Being a physiotherapist is integral to who I am and all I have achieved and will remain really important to me as well as being part of the wider AHP family. 

Personally, I am surrounded by physiotherapy role models. For example, in my role as national clinical speciality adviser for respiratory in the personalised care group at NHS Improvement, I work with Aimee Robson, deputy director, personalised care (clinical, workforce and quality) and Andrew Bennett, national clinical director for musculoskeletal MSK – both have physiotherapy backgrounds and are the first non-medics in their posts. 

There is also the wonderful Bev Harden who is our national Health Education England allied health professional (AHP) lead and a physio by background, and the same goes for Steve Tolan, AHP lead for London. 

We also have role models like Dr Melrose Stewart MBE who has been an international trailblazer on healthy ageing and was fundamental in the success of the Channel 4 TV programme ‘Old People’s Homes for 4 Year Olds’

And then there other examples, such as Uzo Ehiogu, who is leading the way in military, sports and exercise. Uzo has more letters after his name than me and is a huge inspiration.

What top three things will you aim to achieve as BTS president?

  • understanding our membership.  Our current membership data aren’t accurate so we are looking to review this over the next year
  • increase the diversity of professionals sitting on our specialist advisory groups, committees and board
  • help to create a society in which everyone feels like they truly belong 

Working in a variety of roles outside of physiotherapy has really helped me to develop a number of skills I wouldn’t have developed otherwise, and I really recommend others to do the same if they can [Rachael Moses]

Tell us about your ‘day job’ and how you go about filling a number of demanding roles simultaneously

I currently work one day a week as the national clinical speciality adviser for respiratory in the personalised care group at NHS Improvement. I job share this with Mohan, a wonderful GP,  and we really complement each other. This role looks to advise policies, guidelines, pieces of work that are aligned to the respiratory priorities of the NHS long-term plan with particular reference to personalised care.

On the other four days each week I am head of clinical leadership development in the NHS Leadership Academy. I couldn’t have asked for a better job at this stage in my career. Having experienced the very best and worst of NHS leadership, I now have the opportunity to influence the leadership development of others is an incredible opportunity. 

I am so fortunate to be able to continue to work part time as a consultant physiotherapist and currently this is in third sector with charities including Medical Aid for Palestinians, which is very close to my heart.

My additional roles include being a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Council and honorary student president, but my term ends next month. I am also the multimedia editor of Thorax BMJ and co-chair HMV-UK, the national home mechanical ventilation networking group.

I would love to say being organised is instrumental in working in a number of roles but, to be honest, the key for me is knowing my deadlines and priorities and working from there. There really aren’t enough hours in the day so it’s the only way I can seem to work everything in alongside the day jobs!

Working in a variety of roles outside of physiotherapy has really helped me to develop a number of skills I wouldn’t have developed otherwise, and I really recommend others to do the same if they can.

What inspires and energises you?

I would have given a very different answer to this question over the years, but what always inspires me is seeing the impact of my work, interventions and initiatives on people. This can be patients, families, professionals and peers and the great thing now is as I have progressed in my career, the reach you have is greater than it was when working across a local system or team. 

I have worked in the NHS for over 20 years and feel honoured to say this: I work with the kindest, most compassionate and caring people who have dedicated their lives to others. 

This feeling has been even more profound over the last two years and, as hard as times are now, we will get through this together. It is this belief that gives me the motivation to continue wanting to be better and empower others to do the same. 

To find out more about the British Thoracic Society, visit: https://www.brit-thoracic.org.uk

Author: Edited by Ian A McMillan
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