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Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Independent Learning Review


The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) commissioned The King’s Fund to undertake an independent review to identify the lessons that can be learned following its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) held to debate the role of physician associates (PAs).

The review will consider:

  • the context leading up to the EGM and the handling of the survey data presented as a part of the EGM

  • the application of the current governance framework of the RCP, including its leadership and internal processes as relevant to the EGM

  • areas of strength and opportunities for improvement in data management, governance practices and procedures

  • any relevant reflections on culture, behaviours and relationships within the RCP as manifested in relation to the EGM.

Why we are doing this project

We believe there will be important learning from this project for the leadership, Council and members of the RCP, and by extension for other membership organisations, including but not limited to, other Royal Colleges.

Our approach

The review is being undertaken through a combination of desktop review and engagement with relevant individuals. The activities are as follows.

Desktop review of relevant information (now complete) including:

  • documentation relevant to the calling and running of the EGM, including the survey information and process, and any other relevant information provided to Council and executive leadership team before or following the EGM

  • relevant corporate governance documents

  • information regarding key stakeholders and the role of the RCP in the development the national policy on PAs. This will provide background for the review. Policy regarding physician associates per se is beyond the scope of this review 

  • any useful comparison information from the wider health and care system on how other national organisations have sought to manage change of this nature, in particular any learning from the introduction of nursing associates  

  • relevant social media activity around the time of the EGM, again as background material.

Up to 20 confidential semi-structured interviews (June–early July).

Interviewees include:

  • key officers, both executive and elected

  • a sample of RCP Council members

  • a sample of EGM signatories

  • a sample of RCP Trustees.

An invitation for all Council members to provide written feedback.

We anticipate that our final report will set out the lessons learned and a short set of priority recommendations for the RCP relevant to both formal governance and management processes, and to the culture, behaviours and relationships within the RCP.

Key milestones

The desktop review commenced in May 2024 and is now complete. Interviews and an invitation for Council members to provide written feedback will take place in June/early July, and the report will be shared with the RCP in August 2024. 

Project team

The team will be led by:

  • Helen Buckingham, Lead Consultant

  • Jo Vigor, Assistant Director with day-to day project oversight

Helen Buckingham

Helen is a prominent figure in the world of health care strategy and policy, most recently having served as the Nuffield Trust Director of Strategy.

Helen has held a range of positions that have given her deep experience of health care strategy and policy development, implementation and change management, governance and communications. Before joining the Nuffield Trust, she worked at board level in the NHS for 15 years followed by five years in senior executive roles at Monitor and NHS Improvement.

Jo Vigor

Jo is Assistant Director for the Leadership and Organisational Development Directorate at The King’s Fund. Before joining The King’s Fund in 2019, Jo worked at Monitor, designing the regulator’s first well-led framework for foundation trusts. While at NHS Improvement she was the joint National Programme Director for the design and delivery of the first national framework for improvement and leadership development in England (2016).

The project team will also include individuals with subject matter expertise in survey development and analysis, and in governance. The team’s findings will be reviewed by an external panel of experts which is currently being convened.

Further information

For further information please contact [email protected]