Media and Public Affairs - Monthly digests
Short update on the College's media and public affairs activity across the UK over the past few months.
Obesity continues to be high on the news and political agenda this month, with media coverage on sugar, the national child measurement programme, junk food advertisements and irregular sleep patterns. In Parliament, the RCPCH, as part of the Obesity Heath Alliance, hosted a drop-in event for MP on the soft drinks industry levy. There have also been a series of meetings with parliamentarians, including meeting the Health Ministers in Wales and Northern Ireland. Both in Westminster and across the devolved nations, we’ve met to discuss topics including disability, child protection, mental health, neonatal care and diabetes.
There was a plethora of media coverage in October with the College being quoted in response to new research into obesity, postnatal depression and smoking and drinking in childhood. In addition, the College issued a response to the refugee crisis in Calais, receiving pick-up in several national newspapers and RCPCH President, Prof Neena Modi, penned a blog for the BMJ following the College’s position on relationships with formula milk companies being agreed.
It’s been a very busy month for public affairs activity with a host of meetings taking place between College members and MPs. These include meetings about child protection and the Children and Social Work Bill and the Government’s planned soft drinks industry levy. RCPCH projects also received a number of mentions in parliament – MindEd, childhood stroke and the College’s position on age assessment of child refugees are to name just a few.
In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland we have been equally as busy with meetings, including a meeting with Alison Thewlis MP to discuss breastfeeding rates within Scotland, an RCPCH roadshow with CEO Judith Ellis and RCPCH Vice President for Health Policy Dr Carol Ewing in Northern Ireland and in Wales, we met with representatives from the neonatal network to discuss the concerns of neonatologists.
September saw the launch of the College’s National Neonatal Audit Programme report, which received coverage in over 300 media outlets across England, Wales and Scotland including BBC Wales, The Scotsman, The Sun and The Daily Mail. Elsewhere in the news, the junior doctors’ strike continued to hit the headlines, with RCPCH President Professor Neena Modi appearing on multiple news programmes in support of our trainees including Radio 4, Channel 4 and BBC News.
Party conference season is now upon us, and the team has been busy organising our fringe events at Labour, Conservative and SNP.
In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland we are continuing our efforts to meet decision-makers and key stakeholders to discuss our priorities for child health and have received a number of mentions in the legislative chambers across the devolved administrations.
Traditionally August is a quiet month in public affairs and media. However, we’ve had an unusually busy month with securing coverage for the Rota Vacancies and Compliance Survey, the publication of the Childhood Obesity Plan and leaked Department of Health documents which revealed Jeremy Hunt’s civil servants believe his claims about thousands of patients dying because of poor weekend hospital care have undermined the drive to create a “truly seven-day NHS”.
Our party conference fringes are shaping up to be good events, with confirmed speakers and strong CYP involvement.
In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales we’ve continued to network and meet with a range of key contacts including the Scottish Chief Medical Officer, the Wales Transplantation Advisory Group Paediatric Sub-Group and members of the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Health.
Following the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union and the subsequent Cabinet reshuffle we have been building relationships with new Ministers at the Department of Health in England. Although Jeremy Hunt has remained as Secretary of State for Health, there are a number of new faces which we will now start to engage with on issues such as public health and workforce.
In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, we have started to meet some of the key politicians and stakeholders to introduce them to the College, following the devolved nation’s elections in May. We have met with the Scottish Labour Health policy team, the Welsh Assembly's Cross Party Group on Children and Young People, Daithi McKay, Sinn Féin MLA and party health spokesperson, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA and SDLP MP, Mark Durkan.
The RCPCH was mentioned in Westminster, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly on MindEd, female genital mutilation and the invited reviews in NHS Lothian and Pembrokeshire.
RCPCH Wales has been developing plans to influence the new AMs. RCPCH Scotland has met with two new MSPs following the elections. RCPCH Ireland has hosted a ‘takeover challenge’ with the &Us network which was presented at the NICON16 conference.
We have also started to analyse the impact of the decision to leave the European Union might have on the RCPCH and child health. We have written a briefing and if you’d like to receive this please contact us.
It has been another busy month for the Media and External Affairs Team following the elections in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The elections produced increasingly different governments in each of the devolved nations. This divergence is likely to be reflected in policies on child health in the future. Following the elections we have launched ‘100 day challenges’ to each of the new governments setting out what the RCPCH would like to see to improve child health in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
There has also been a lot of continued press activity relating to the junior doctors contract and the restart of negotiations between the Government and the British Medical Association (BMA). In response, Professor Neena Modi, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health outlined her concerns about the current pressures facing the NHS and the impact they are having on child health services.
The latest National Paediatric Diabetes Audit was launched and received over 300 pieces of coverage in the print and broadcast media, including being the led story on BBC Online. Dr Justin Warner, NPDA Clinical Lead for the audit stated that although care was improving, not all children in England and Wales with diabetes are getting key health checks.
It has been a busy month for the Media and External Affairs Team with a lot of press and public affairs activity in the run up to the junior doctors strike which took place at the end of April. RCPCH President Professor Neena Modi and Chief Executive Judith Ellis met with Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt to discuss the issue and we also coordinated a letter with other Royal College’s to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging him to intervene to stop imposition of the contract. The letter received coverage in a number of media outlets.
We are also analysing and scrutinising each of the political parties manifestos in the run up to elections in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales on May 5th. A number of our ‘asks’ in each of the Vision 2016 documents have been included in the manifestos. We are also planning our strategy and activity to engage with the new governments when they are formed after May 5th to ensure child health is a priority.
Child health was top of the political agenda in Scotland and Northern Ireland this month, as the College brought together panels of key health spokespeople from the political parties contesting May’s elections to debate the important topic of children and young people’s health.
In Westminster, a surprise announcement from the Chancellor that the Government are to introduce a sugar tax gave cause for celebration. Our lobbying efforts to ensure a robust childhood obesity strategy which contains a wide range of measures, however, continue. In the media, the RCPCH appeared on a Panorama special exploring shaken baby syndrome and elsewhere received coverage for a number of issues including meningitis, workforce and breastfeeding.
Meanwhile in Wales we welcomed our new External Affairs Manager, Gethin Jones. Gethin joined the team on St David’s Day.
February saw us continue to build our external affairs profile in Scotland and Northern Ireland with preparations for the child health debates to influence the political parties manifestos ahead of the elections in May. We have also participated in the Manifesto Marketplace in Wales to influence the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Welsh Labour Party and UKIP at the spring conferences. In March we’ll be attending the Welsh Conservative and Plaid Cymru spring conferences too.
In the media, the College received a huge amount of coverage for the air pollution report which we launched jointly with the Royal College of Physicians. In Westminster, the RCPCH and its work was mentioned eight times in reference to MindEd, Disability Matters and the junior doctors contract.
We entered the new year planning for the child health debates in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to influence the political parties manifestos ahead of the elections in May. We also continued to influence the child obesity strategy in England which is due to be launched in the next few weeks.
December saw the RCPCH host an ‘drop in’ event for MPs in Westminster to discuss childhood obesity as well as follow up activity after last month’s launch of the Vision 2016 manifestos in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Do send us your feedback and contact any of the team if you’d like to find out more about our external affairs work across the UK - including archived monthly digests.