A busy January - President's blog

The pace of recovery from COVID-19 can seem slow and it's easy to feel battered by the past two years. But there's important work being done - from the rollout of our workforce census to advocating for child health.
Dr Camilla Kingdon, RCPCH President, reads Milestones

It feels like January 2022 has flown by! That’s probably a reflection of how busy everyone is. On the one hand it is great to see that RSV rates are falling and we must take time to reflect on the important positive lessons we’ve learnt from our preparation for this season. On the other hand, we know that there is still a lot of Omicron swirling around our schools and the impact of COVID-19 continues relentlessly.

We are very concerned about the pace of recovery from the pandemic – both within the community child health and therapies context, as well as the elective and transplant surgery, and oral health, worlds. Added to this is the rollout of the vaccination programme for 5 to 11 year olds who are deemed to be “at risk” or are household contacts of immunosuppressed adults. This gets going from Monday, 31 January. So, I guess it’s no surprise we’ve barely had time to notice January slipping by!

Staff COVID-19 vaccinations

I know we all feel rather bruised and battered by the difficult circumstances we’ve had to deal with for the last two years or so. It would be very easy for these feelings to spill into our work and personal lives. There will be clinical teams grappling with the issue of some members opting not to be vaccinated. The number of unvaccinated doctors is thought to be very small, but within our wider teams it may be more of a feature. It could become a hugely divisive issue at the very time when we all need to pull together to see out the end of this pandemic.

I’ve written earlier this month about my views on paediatricians being vaccinated. I stand by that but I think that colleagues who are not vaccinated deserve to be treated kindly and given the time to have personal and thoughtful conversations so the best possible outcome can be found. It’s times like these that kindness means we stand together and work hard to see life from each other’s perspective.  This is how we need to navigate the choppy waters of staff mandated vaccination – not judgement and criticism.

Have your say in the workforce census

Despite the January blues, I am really excited because we’ve launched our RCPCH workforce census. We all know how stretched and difficult staffing invariably is and how creative ideas to improve services or develop our teams, simply never come to fruition when there are rota gaps. We have to get a better handle on how our clinical services are staffed so we can undertake meaningful workforce planning and forecasting of staffing trends.

So – please help us to help you!  We want every consultant and SAS doctor in the UK to complete our workforce census survey. It takes less than 10 minutes and the information will help us campaign for greater prioritisation of the child health workforce in a far more effective way.

Workforce is core business for the College. Only last week we submitted evidence (PDF) to the Westminster Health and Social Care Committee inquiry into recruitment, training and retention in England. We highlighted the pressures the child health workforce is under and described what we think needs to be done to improve policy with regards the health workforce. The workforce census will help us undertake this work even more effectively.

A voice for child health

We’re using every opportunity to flag the importance of child health in the Government’s Health and Care Bill (England). The Bill is currently being scrutinised in the House of Lords and we have briefed peers on the specific needs of children and young people (PDF) and reiterated our ask for a designated child health lead on each Integrated Care Board.

I have been really delighted that several peers have asked to meet us specifically to understand what we consider to be the priorities for children, and to consider how they can make a strong case to government to create a system that helps improve child health outcomes and supports the workforce. Please keep an eye on how this evolves.  There will be a further debate in the Lords on an amendment we support on using the NHS number as a single unique identifier for children. Our Insight piece explains the importance of this for children.

Conference bookings open

On a final note, I’m delighted to say that booking is now open for this year's RCPCH Conference, which will take place from 28 to 30 June at the ACC in Liverpool! Our exciting conference theme is “Connect, Energise, Inspire: Celebrating paediatrics and child health together.” I would love to see as many of you there for our first face to face flagship event in three years. 

With my best wishes, and take care,

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