It is my very great honour to attend the 35th Annual Academic Congress of the College of Anaesthesiologists and Intensivists of Sri Lanka as Chief Guest. I bring greetings from The Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) in the United Kingdom, which has had a long and cordial relationship with the Sri Lankan College, nurturing continuing exchange of ideas, scientific knowledge and expertise for many years. Maintaining these historical bonds has never been more important as the UK is about to face the prospect of Brexit and an uncertain future relationship with its European neighbours.

The theme for this year’s Congress is “To overcome challenges and move forward”. Wherever in the world that we practice medicine, ever increasing demand for healthcare without a commensurate increase in resources is a common problem that we all face.  In the UK, the RCoA is addressing this issue via its perioperative medicine strategy encouraging multidisciplinary working to provide the safest, timely and most cost effective treatment for all our patients before, during and after surgery.  This has guided all aspects of our work in recent years including our Perioperative Quality Improvement Programme, which collects perioperative data on patients undergoing major surgery and tracks their long-term outcomes. This largest perioperative quality improvement project in the history of the NHS has just published its first report involving over 6500 patient episodes from 79 hospitals across the whole of the UK and has defined five national improvement opportunities for 2019 and beyond.

So what is the future for our specialty?  Developments in genomic medicine, artificial intelligence and ‘big data’ sharing are just some of the themes I will develop in my presentation on this topic at the Congress. But the lack of access to safe surgery and anaesthesia for 5 billion of the world’s 7 billion population is surely the biggest global challenge we face and the RCoA is determined to do all it can to address this huge amount of unmet need.

Once again thank you to the President and College for your kind invitation to join you for here in Colombo and I look forward to what I am sure will be an excellent conference.

With best wishes

Dr Liam Brennan, Immediate Past President, The Royal College of Anaesthetists