All for one and one for all! Teamwork for child health

Dr Nicola Jay reflects on her first six months as Officer for Workforce Planning and Health Services, and emphasises the importance of good data to her job.
Dr Nicola Jay (far right) with her fabulous multidisciplinary team at Sheffield Children's Hostpial

I have been in this role for six months now and I’ve been amazed at the amount RCPCH is doing to improve the working lives of paediatricians. We know that people who are happy and working in good teams look after children better – that’s what we all want.

I’ve been involved in a huge range of projects with this aim, and much of it is underpinned by our gold standard workforce data.

For example, in the Paediatrics 2040 programme we’re trying to predict various scenarios (utopian and dystopian!) for the future of child health services. Implementing Shape of Training in paediatrics will mean that junior doctors will spend less time in service delivery and more seeing children and their families. But there’s lots of work still to be done to understand what this will look like.

In that vein, we’re exploring multi team working: who else can support looking after children and in what way? This year, we’re planning an Advanced Clinical Practitioners day at the London offices, and then more focused Physician Associates day in Sheffield, looking at what the College can do to support these groups.

I’ve also spent a lot of time meeting with decision makers to champion the cause of the child health workforce. The only way we can effectively negotiate at the national level is by getting good information from you. What we don’t know, goes unsaid.

Evidence [from our census] helps us to target pressure points

This is the year of the RCPCH Workforce Census 2020 and we need your help. If we don’t have an accurate image of the situation on the ground, due to incomplete information, this results in an illusion that we don’t need more paediatricians. The Government already underestimate our shortages due to high rates of less than full time working, which is set to increase. Evidence helps us to target pressure points and we know lots of areas are really stretched, such as community child health, safeguarding and SAS or Locally Employed doctors (that’s not to say we don’t all need more staff!).

The NHS Long Term Plan indicates that workforce planning will be increasingly devolved to the local level (we are eagerly awaiting the People Plan). I know from my work in the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw ICS that integrated care is truly the way forward to ensure the best care possible for every child. However, child health often sinks to the bottom of the priority pile when dishing out the money.

We’ve set up the RCPCH Ambassadors programme to raise the voice of child health at the local level. The 2020 census data will be essential for the Ambassadors in their influencing and will allow us to do regional breakdowns and comparisons, and to help you fight for the service that your patients deserve.

I will not focus on all the worries regarding the workforce but what we need to do about it

If you’re a clinical lead, we will be contacting you shortly to ask you to respond to the census on behalf of your Trust or Health Board. If you are part of a paediatric team, you can help by collating data about medical staffing and workforce in your service and passing this on to your lead. When your service’s response is complete, you will be able to download a report summarising your data – you can use this report in team meetings or take it to commissioners.

This year is going to be really busy for all things workforce-related, and we are ready for it! I’m a proud optimist so I will not focus on all the worries regarding the workforce but what we need to do about it. People who know me will appreciate I usually say it as it is and I prefer action to procrastination so we all need to support the collection of data… Better get to it!