We had originally planned to launch this strategy at the 2020 AAPT Annual General Meeting and had begun the process of developing the main themes in the January of that year - however, soon after that, events overtook us.
The first cases of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the United Kingdom were identified at the end of January 2020, around the same time the outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHIEC) by the World Health Organization (WHO), and a formal pandemic declaration followed in March.
Planning for, and response to, excess deaths arising from the pandemic soon placed unprecedented strain on the after-death process in general, and APTs in particular, with additional storage for the deceased being established in all parts of the UK and new infection prevention and control (IPC) measures introduced for all areas of mortuary operation.
At the time of writing this introduction, there have been 4,550,944 cases and 152,289 deaths in the UK with COVID-19 on the death certificate1.
As usual, APTs have risen to this challenge with dedication, care and determination, despite the difficulties posed by overwhelming workload and the distress caused by having to restrict or refuse services to bereaved people for safety and operational reasons.
As I reflected on how the pandemic might have affected the strategy and its central themes, it struck me that, rather than superseding them or making them obsolete, it had only served to shine a spotlight on our key challenges: how the welfare provision for APTs is patchy at best (a topic never more relevant than now), how our professional title and scope of practice are vulnerable to the pressures of budgets and staffing shortages, and how we must keep pace with changing technology and practice.
This strategy presents the six main themes upon which AAPT will be focussing over the coming four years and is the result of a combined effort from a group of professionals that I am not only proud to call colleagues, but friends, and serves as a commitment to tackle these issues head-on and to push forward to greater and better things for the APT profession.
John Pitchers FAAPT
Chair of the AAPT