Advocating on climate change and air pollution - President's blog

Camilla reflects on a busy week advocating for children within the Greener NHS and sustainability panel discussion at NHSConfed Expo. She also flags a couple of opportunities for members to share views on air pollution and the current cost of living crisis.
Dr Camilla Kingdon

It never ceases to amaze me how the very best in people and the smartest ideas can be found in times when the going seems very tough and the future uncertain.  I attended my first NHSConfed Expo  on 16 June to take part in a panel discussion about the Greener NHS and sustainability. As I travelled to Liverpool I wondered how this discussion would be received the day after the BMA report into racism  was published and on the day when the huge numbers of children on waiting lists across the NHS in England was reported  – both of which we responded to. Would people feel that a discussion on sustainability is a luxury we cannot afford to waste time on, given our current pressures? Would people accuse us of focusing on a distraction when really we need to concentrate on health inequalities and the cost of living crisis? I needn’t have worried! It was a real privilege to hear Dame Jackie Daniel, CEO of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, talk about how her trust came to be the first healthcare organisation in the world to declare a climate emergency and the huge number of changes they have since made. Nick Watts, Chief Sustainability Officer for NHSE, described how for the first time all 212 trusts in England  have put strategic plans in place to reach net zero. You may want to ask your trust what their Net Zero Plan is. The link to our statement is here.  

President Camilla Kingdon at NHSConfed

Making the case for children in this debate was my role and that isn’t difficult! What is more challenging is how we translate this into practice. What I discovered in Liverpool is that not only are paediatricians seen as being right at the forefront of this campaign, the audience was stunned by the data that is now available describing the global impact of the climate crisis which will predominantly be borne by the youngest and weakest. As I left Liverpool, I reflected how we have an important opportunity which we must not squander. Whether we want to highlight the climate crisis or the impact of the cost of living or the disproportionate impact of health inequalities on children, we have more than a key message, we also have a willing and receptive audience – so let’s not miss this chance.

Clean Air Day

16 June was also Clean Air Day. Air pollution is an issue that matters hugely to children for so many reasons. The obvious group impacted are our asthmatic patients, but there are far more wide reaching consequences that we don’t think about nearly enough – the increased risk of infertility, intrauterine growth restriction, prematurity and so much more. By 2050, UNICEF predicts that air pollution will become the leading cause of child mortality, and it is clear we are facing a health emergency as well as a climate emergency. 

We are determined to play our part and focus on the action we can take to improve this. A consultation is still open across England which is looking to set new air quality targets. Our view is that the proposed targets lack ambition and are not strong enough to achieve healthy air for all. We don’t have time to delay until 2040, and we must take steps to reduce levels now and set proper legal targets for 2030. We would encourage you to respond to this consultation as an individual via an Asthma+Lung UK toolkit, before it closes on 27 June. If you need any more motivation to do this, there is a really useful tool where you can get an instant and free air quality report for any postcode across the UK – it’s quite shocking how high it is in so many areas. You can also read more about what we can do to protect children’s health from air pollution on our Insight blog. 

Cost of living – tell us what you’re seeing

The cost of living crisis and the predicted inflation rate of 11% will have escaped none of you. This is going to impact each of us personally – and in our clinical work too. We will be doing everything in our power to advocate for children and their families and you’ll be hearing much more from the College over the next weeks as we develop resources and increase our advocacy. We need your help with this please. We have developed a short snapshot survey  to give us a temperature check of how poverty impacts your clinical practice. I would be really grateful if you’d complete the survey - it takes less than three minutes!

AGM motions – find out more

There’s still time for you hear more about the two proposed motions to be discussed at this year’s 28 June Annual General Meeting (AGM) as part of the College’s annual conference. We had a short information webinar on extending voting rights motion last Wednesday and you can log in to access the recording and other information about the motion. On Wednesday 22 June, we will hold a further webinar to provide more information about the motion to introduce a new post-nominal called DipRCPCH (login required) – log in to sign up for that webinar here. I hope that these resources are useful background to inform your vote on both motions at the AGM on 28 June, either in-person at the AGM or via a livestream (details about how to vote are available here). 


Conference 

It’s not too late to join us in Liverpool! Our first in person conference since 2019 from 28-30 June promises to be the ‘go to’ event of 2022  …… we’ve got an outstanding and very varied programme as well as a whole range of social activities. Who can resist the fun of the famous BAPIO Dinner? If you are a runner, you’ll be relieved to hear we have our infamous ex-Vice President for Training and Assessment, David Evans, back to lead the pack – almost certainly resplendent in his trademark pink! And there’ll be ‘Ash’s Baking School’ happening and rumour has it Ash has persuaded Nigella Lawson to donate several signed copies of her latest book! We’d love to see you!

With my best wishes, and take care

Camilla

PS – The British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) is currently running a survey on working patterns for all consultants involved in neonatal care. If that applies to you, please help by completing their short survey. We want to make sure that working in neonatal care is attractive, safe and sustainable and this survey is the first step to finding out what is currently happening so we can identify areas of good practice and see where improvements are needed.


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